Movement of thought

October 30, 2009

Peru: blood flows in the Amazon–James Petras

Filed under: Politics — movementofthought @ 11:30 am

In the current scenario when a big military campaign against poor and indigenous people of our country is about to begin, this article by James Petras gives you a glimpse of peruvian people’s experiences regarding exploitation and resistance. Put the name of Manmohan singh in place of  Peruvian President Alan García and you find no difference at all…………Editor

 

In early June, Peruvian President Alan García, an ally of US President Barack Obama, ordered armored personnel carriers, helicopter gun-ships and hundreds of heavily armed troops to assault and disperse a peaceful, legal protest organized by members of Peru’s Amazonian indigenous communities protesting the entry of foreign multinational mining companies on their traditional homelands. Dozens of Indians were killed or are missing, scores have been injured and arrested and a number of Peruvian police, held hostage by the indigenous protestors were killed in the assault. President García declared martial law in the region in order to enforce his unilateral and unconstitutional fiat granting of mining exploitation rights to foreign companies, which infringed on the integrity of traditional Amazonian indigenous communal lands.

Alan García is no stranger to government-sponsored massacres. In June 1986, he ordered the military to bomb and shell prisons in the capital holding many hundreds of political prisoners protesting prison conditions – resulting in over 400 known victims. Later obscure mass graves revealed dozens more. This notorious massacre took place while García was hosting a gathering of the so-called ‘Socialist’ International in Lima. His political party, APRA (American Popular Revolutionary Alliance) a member of the ‘International’, was embarrassed by the public display of its ‘national-socialist’ proclivities, before hundreds of European Social Democrat functionaries. Charged with misappropriation of government funds and leaving office with an inflation rate of almost 8,000% in 1990, he agreed to support Presidential candidate Alberto Fujimori in exchange for amnesty. When Fujimori imposed a dictatorship in 1992, García went into self-imposed exile in Colombia and later, France. He returned in 2001 when the statute of limitations on his corruption charges had expired and Fujimori was forced to resign amidst charges of running death squads and spying on his critics. García won the 2006 Presidential elections in a run-off against the pro-Indian nationalist candidate and former Army officer, Ollanta Humala, thanks to financial and media backing by Lima’s rightwing, ethnic European oligarchs and US overseas ‘AID’ agencies.

Back in power, García left no doubt about his political and economic agenda. In October 2007 he announced his strategy of placing foreign multi-national mining companies at the center of his economic ‘development’ program, while justifying the brutal displacement of small producers from communal lands and indigenous villages in the name of ‘modernization’.

García pushed through congressional legislation in line with the US-promoted ‘Free Trade Agreement of the Americas’ or ALCA. Peru was one of only three Latin American nations to support the US proposal. He opened Peru to the unprecedented plunder of its resources, labor, land and markets by the multinationals. In late 2007, García began to award huge tracts of traditional indigenous lands in the Amazon region for exploitation by foreign mining and energy multinationals. This was in violation of a 1969 International Labor Organization-brokered agreement obligating the Peruvian government to consult and negotiate with the indigenous inhabitants over exploitation of their lands and rivers. Under his ‘open door’ policy, the mining sector of the economy expanded rapidly and made huge profits from the record-high world commodity prices and the growing Asian (Chinese) demand for raw materials.

The multinational corporations were attracted by Peru’s low corporate taxes and royalty payments and virtually free access to water and cheap government-subsidized electricity rates. The enforcement of environmental regulations was suspended in these ecologically fragile regions, leading to wide-spread contamination of the rivers, ground water, air and soil in the surrounding indigenous communities. Poisons from mining operations led to massive fish kills and rendered the water unfit for drinking. The operations decimated the tropical forests, undermining the livelihood of tens of thousands of villagers engaged in traditional artisan work and subsistence forest gathering and agricultural activities.

The profits of the mining bonanza go primarily to the overseas companies. The García regime distributes state revenues to his supporters among the financial and real estate speculators, luxury goods importers and political cronies in Lima’s enclosed upscale, heavily guarded neighborhoods and exclusive country-clubs. As the profit margins of the multinationals reached an incredible 50% and government revenues exceeded $1 billion US dollars, the indigenous communities lacked paved roads, safe water, basic health services and schools. Worse still, they experienced a rapid deterioration of their everyday lives as the influx of mining capital led to increased prices for basic food and medicine. Even the World Bank in its Annual Report for 2008 and the editors of the Financial Times of London urged the García regime to address the growing discontent and crisis among the indigenous communities.

Delegations from the indigenous communities had traveled to Lima to try to establish a dialogue with the President in order to address the degradation of their lands and communities. The delegates were met with closed doors. García maintained that ‘progress and modernity come from the big investments by the multinationals…,(rather than) the poor peasants who haven’t a centavo to invest.’ He interpreted the appeals for peaceful dialogue as a sign of weakness among the indigenous inhabitants of the Amazon and increased his grants of exploitation concessions to foreign MNCs even deeper into the Amazon. He cut off virtually all possibility for dialogue and compromise with the Indian communities.

The Amazonian Indian communities responded by forming the Inter-Ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP). They held public protests for over 7 weeks culminating in the blocking of two transnational highways. This enraged García, who referred to the protestors as ‘savages and barbarians’ and sent police and military units to suppress the mass action. What García failed to consider was the fact that a significant proportion of indigenous men in these villages had served as rmy conscripts, who fought in the 1995 war against Ecuador while others had been trained in local self-defense community organizations. These combat veterans were not intimidated by state terror and their resistance to the initial police attacks resulted in both police and Indian casualties. García then declared ‘war on the savages’ sending a heavy military force with helicopters and armored troops with orders to ‘shoot to kill’. AIDESEP activists report over one hundred deaths among the indigenous protestors and their families: Indians were murdered in the streets, in their homes and workplaces. The remains of many victims are believed to have been dumped in the ravines and rivers.

Conclusion

The Obama regime has predictably not issued a single word of concern or protest in the face of one of the worst massacres of Peruvian civilians in this decade – perpetrated by one of America’s closest remaining allies in Latin America. García, taking his talking points from the US Ambassador, accused Venezuela and Bolivia of having instigated the Indian ‘uprising’, quoting a letter of support from Bolivia’s President Evo Morales sent to an intercontinental conference of Indian communities held in Lima in May as ‘proof’. Martial law was declared and the entire Amazon region of Peru is being militarized. Meetings are banned and family members are forbidden from searching for their missing relatives.

Throughout Latin America, all the major Indian organizations have expressed their solidarity with the Peruvian indigenous movements. Within Peru, mass social movements, trade unions and human rights groups have organized a general strike on June 11. Fearing the spread of mass protests, El Commercio, the conservative Lima daily, cautioned García to adopt some conciliatory measures to avoid a generalized urban uprising. A one-day truce was declared on June 10, but the Indian organizations refused to end their blockade of the highways unless the García Government rescinds its illegal land grant decrees.

In the meantime, a strange silence hangs over the White House. Our usually garrulous President Obama, so adept at reciting platitudes about diversity and tolerance and praising peace and justice, cannot find a single phrase in his prepared script condemning the massacre of scores of indigenous inhabitants of the Peruvian Amazon. When egregious violations of human rights are committed in Latin America by a US backed client-President following Washington’s formula of ‘free trade’, deregulation of environmental protections and hostility toward anti-imperialist countries (Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador), Obama favors complicity over condemnation. 

In early June, Peruvian President Alan García, an ally of US President Barack Obama, ordered armored personnel carriers, helicopter gun-ships and hundreds of heavily armed troops to assault and disperse a peaceful, legal protest organized by members of Peru’s Amazonian indigenous communities protesting the entry of foreign multinational mining companies on their traditional homelands. Dozens of Indians were killed or are missing, scores have been injured and arrested and a number of Peruvian police, held hostage by the indigenous protestors were killed in the assault. President García declared martial law in the region in order to enforce his unilateral and unconstitutional fiat granting of mining exploitation rights to foreign companies, which infringed on the integrity of traditional Amazonian indigenous communal lands.

Alan García is no stranger to government-sponsored massacres. In June 1986, he ordered the military to bomb and shell prisons in the capital holding many hundreds of political prisoners protesting prison conditions – resulting in over 400 known victims. Later obscure mass graves revealed dozens more. This notorious massacre took place while García was hosting a gathering of the so-called ‘Socialist’ International in Lima. His political party, APRA (American Popular Revolutionary Alliance) a member of the ‘International’, was embarrassed by the public display of its ‘national-socialist’ proclivities, before hundreds of European Social Democrat functionaries. Charged with misappropriation of government funds and leaving office with an inflation rate of almost 8,000% in 1990, he agreed to support Presidential candidate Alberto Fujimori in exchange for amnesty. When Fujimori imposed a dictatorship in 1992, García went into self-imposed exile in Colombia and later, France. He returned in 2001 when the statute of limitations on his corruption charges had expired and Fujimori was forced to resign amidst charges of running death squads and spying on his critics. García won the 2006 Presidential elections in a run-off against the pro-Indian nationalist candidate and former Army officer, Ollanta Humala, thanks to financial and media backing by Lima’s rightwing, ethnic European oligarchs and US overseas ‘AID’ agencies.

Back in power, García left no doubt about his political and economic agenda. In October 2007 he announced his strategy of placing foreign multi-national mining companies at the center of his economic ‘development’ program, while justifying the brutal displacement of small producers from communal lands and indigenous villages in the name of ‘modernization’.

García pushed through congressional legislation in line with the US-promoted ‘Free Trade Agreement of the Americas’ or ALCA. Peru was one of only three Latin American nations to support the US proposal. He opened Peru to the unprecedented plunder of its resources, labor, land and markets by the multinationals. In late 2007, García began to award huge tracts of traditional indigenous lands in the Amazon region for exploitation by foreign mining and energy multinationals. This was in violation of a 1969 International Labor Organization-brokered agreement obligating the Peruvian government to consult and negotiate with the indigenous inhabitants over exploitation of their lands and rivers. Under his ‘open door’ policy, the mining sector of the economy expanded rapidly and made huge profits from the record-high world commodity prices and the growing Asian (Chinese) demand for raw materials.

The multinational corporations were attracted by Peru’s low corporate taxes and royalty payments and virtually free access to water and cheap government-subsidized electricity rates. The enforcement of environmental regulations was suspended in these ecologically fragile regions, leading to wide-spread contamination of the rivers, ground water, air and soil in the surrounding indigenous communities. Poisons from mining operations led to massive fish kills and rendered the water unfit for drinking. The operations decimated the tropical forests, undermining the livelihood of tens of thousands of villagers engaged in traditional artisan work and subsistence forest gathering and agricultural activities.

The profits of the mining bonanza go primarily to the overseas companies. The García regime distributes state revenues to his supporters among the financial and real estate speculators, luxury goods importers and political cronies in Lima’s enclosed upscale, heavily guarded neighborhoods and exclusive country-clubs. As the profit margins of the multinationals reached an incredible 50% and government revenues exceeded $1 billion US dollars, the indigenous communities lacked paved roads, safe water, basic health services and schools. Worse still, they experienced a rapid deterioration of their everyday lives as the influx of mining capital led to increased prices for basic food and medicine. Even the World Bank in its Annual Report for 2008 and the editors of the Financial Times of London urged the García regime to address the growing discontent and crisis among the indigenous communities.

Delegations from the indigenous communities had traveled to Lima to try to establish a dialogue with the President in order to address the degradation of their lands and communities. The delegates were met with closed doors. García maintained that ‘progress and modernity come from the big investments by the multinationals…,(rather than) the poor peasants who haven’t a centavo to invest.’ He interpreted the appeals for peaceful dialogue as a sign of weakness among the indigenous inhabitants of the Amazon and increased his grants of exploitation concessions to foreign MNCs even deeper into the Amazon. He cut off virtually all possibility for dialogue and compromise with the Indian communities.

The Amazonian Indian communities responded by forming the Inter-Ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP). They held public protests for over 7 weeks culminating in the blocking of two transnational highways. This enraged García, who referred to the protestors as ‘savages and barbarians’ and sent police and military units to suppress the mass action. What García failed to consider was the fact that a significant proportion of indigenous men in these villages had served as rmy conscripts, who fought in the 1995 war against Ecuador while others had been trained in local self-defense community organizations. These combat veterans were not intimidated by state terror and their resistance to the initial police attacks resulted in both police and Indian casualties. García then declared ‘war on the savages’ sending a heavy military force with helicopters and armored troops with orders to ‘shoot to kill’. AIDESEP activists report over one hundred deaths among the indigenous protestors and their families: Indians were murdered in the streets, in their homes and workplaces. The remains of many victims are believed to have been dumped in the ravines and rivers.

Conclusion

The Obama regime has predictably not issued a single word of concern or protest in the face of one of the worst massacres of Peruvian civilians in this decade – perpetrated by one of America’s closest remaining allies in Latin America. García, taking his talking points from the US Ambassador, accused Venezuela and Bolivia of having instigated the Indian ‘uprising’, quoting a letter of support from Bolivia’s President Evo Morales sent to an intercontinental conference of Indian communities held in Lima in May as ‘proof’. Martial law was declared and the entire Amazon region of Peru is being militarized. Meetings are banned and family members are forbidden from searching for their missing relatives.

Throughout Latin America, all the major Indian organizations have expressed their solidarity with the Peruvian indigenous movements. Within Peru, mass social movements, trade unions and human rights groups have organized a general strike on June 11. Fearing the spread of mass protests, El Commercio, the conservative Lima daily, cautioned García to adopt some conciliatory measures to avoid a generalized urban uprising. A one-day truce was declared on June 10, but the Indian organizations refused to end their blockade of the highways unless the García Government rescinds its illegal land grant decrees.

In the meantime, a strange silence hangs over the White House. Our usually garrulous President Obama, so adept at reciting platitudes about diversity and tolerance and praising peace and justice, cannot find a single phrase in his prepared script condemning the massacre of scores of indigenous inhabitants of the Peruvian Amazon. When egregious violations of human rights are committed in Latin America by a US backed client-President following Washington’s formula of ‘free trade’, deregulation of environmental protections and hostility toward anti-imperialist countries (Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador), Obama favors complicity over condemnation.

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October 12, 2009

कश्मीर जैसे झुलसी रोटी है- – अजय सिंह

Filed under: Books — movementofthought @ 10:26 am

‘‘कफ्र्यूड नाइट’’ की यह समीक्षा अपने आप में एक सम्पूर्ण लेख है। और उस खिड़की की तरह है जिसकी ओट से हमें कश्मीर की मंजर-ए-तबाही दिखायी देती है। यह देखते हुए गोरख पाण्डेय की वह कविता बरबस याद आ जाती है
‘‘तुम्हारी आंखें हैं या तकलीफ का उमड़ता हुआ समन्दर
जितनी जल्दी हो
इस दुनिया को बदल देना चाहिए।’’

इस लेख को ‘समयान्तर’ से साभार लिया गया है- संपादक

 
                                                             कफ्र्यूड नाइट: बशारत पीर , रैण्डम हाउस, पृ. 250, मूल्य – 395/

अगर आपको हिन्दी कवि पंकज चतुर्वेदी की कविता ‘‘राष्ट्रपति जी’’ की याद हो तो उसमें यह पंक्तियां आती हैं ‘‘पाकिस्तान अब नहीं डरता
युद्ध की धमकियों से
न वह बाज आता है
कश्मीर में हत्यारों की मदद करने से’’
कवि यह कहना चाह रहा कि कश्मीर मंे जो हत्यायें हो रही हैं उन्हें पाकिस्तान की मदद से भाड़े के हत्यारे करते फिर रहे हैं।
हिन्दी मानस में जो कई बार दुर्भाग्य से हिन्दू मानस मे तब्दील हो जाता है, कश्मीर व पाकिस्तान को लेकर आमतौर पर यही धारण व्याप्त है। क्या सच्चाई यही है? कश्मीर पर बनी संजय काक की बेहतरीन डाक्यूमेन्ट्री फिल्म ‘जश्ने आज़ादी’ (2007) तो कुछ और ही कहानी कहती है।
हिन्दी साहित्य में कश्मीर की चर्चा कभी कभार ही भूले-भटके होती है। लेकिन जब भी होती है, वह कश्मीर के प्रति धिक्कार पाकिस्तान के प्रति दुत्कार और हिन्दुस्तान के प्रति जयकार से भरी होती है। इस धिक्कार-दुत्कार-जयकार में कश्मीर जनता की पहचान, उसकी ख्वाहिश, उसका दुःख दर्द, उसकी यातना, उसकी तड़प व संघर्ष के लिए कोई जगह नहीं होती। हिन्दी कथाकार कमलेश्वर का बहुत रद्दी, घोर अन्धराष्ट्रवादी उपन्यास ‘कितने पाकिस्तान’ (2000) इसका निन्दनीय नमूना है।
कश्मीर में पिछले 20 साल से हिंसा व बर्बरता का जो माहौल बना हुआ है, उसके लिए पाकिस्तान को जिम्मेदार ठहराना एक ऐसा बना-बनाया नुस्खा है जो भारत के राजनीतिक सत्ता प्रतिष्ठान व साहित्यिक-सांस्कृतिक सत्ता प्रतिष्ठान को खूब भाता है। भारत के शासक वर्ग की कश्मीर नीति और भारत की सेना और अर्धसैनिक बल की कार्यवायी ने कश्मीर में जो अन्तहीन भयानक खून खराबा व उत्पीड़न मचा रखा है, कश्मीर पर भारत ने जो भीषण एकतरफा युद्ध थोप रखा है- जिसकी वजह से कश्मीर का समूचा तानाबाना ध्वस्त हो चुका है- उसकी तरफ ‘‘मुख्य भूमि भारत’’ का ध्यान आम तौर पर बहुत कम जाता है।
ऐसी स्थिति में ‘‘रेडिफ’’ व ‘‘तहलका’’ के संवाददाता के रूप में काम कर चुके कश्मीरी पत्रकार व लेखक बशारत पीर की अंग्रेजी किताब ‘‘कफ्र्यूड नाइट’’ यानी ‘कफ्र्यूग्रस्त रात’ का विशेष महत्व है। यह इस मसले की ओर बड़ी शिद्दत, तड़प व तकलीफ के साथ हमारा ध्यान खींचती है। यह युद्धग्रस्त कश्मीर के बारे में बशारत पीर के अपने संस्मरण व रिपोर्ताज का मिलाजुला रूप है। सुन्दर, काव्यात्मक, सशक्त गद्य में लिखी गयी यह किताब सीने पर जैसे घूंसा दर घूंसा जड़ती चलती है। इस किताब को पढ़ना कश्मीर के बारे में खौफनाक सच्चाई से रूबरू होना है।
अगर यह जानना है कि कश्मीर भारत से क्यों ‘अलग’ है, क्यों यह भारत से इतनी गहरी नफरत करता है, और क्यों वह भारत से ‘आज़ाद’ होना चाहता है-तो यह किताब पढ़ी जानी चाहिए।अगर यह जानना है कि कश्मीर भारत के साथ कैसे मिलजुल कर रह सकता है और कैसे दोनो बीच भयानक खाई पाटी जा सकती है-हालांकि अब यह लगभग असम्भव लगने लगा है- तो यह किताब पढ़ी जानी चाहिए। ‘‘कफ्र्यूड नाइट’’ कश्मीरी जनता की आह व चीख है, और भारत की नाक की ओर तनी हुयी मुट्ठी है। ऐसा अंगे्रजी गद्य जो एक ही साथ लालित्य से भरा हुआ, काव्यमय हो और बेहद क्रूर, ठण्डा नश्तर की तरह चुभता हुआ भी हो-यह इस किताब की अलग खासियत है। यह किताब विचलित कर देती है।
‘‘कफ्र्यूड नाइट’’को पढ़ते हुए मेरे प्रिय बंगला कवि सुकान्त भट्टाचार्य की एक कविता की ये पंक्तियां मेरे जहन मे आती रही-
भूख की दुनिया में
सबकुछ गद्यमय है
पूर्णिमा का चांद
मानो झुलसी हुयी रोटी है।
बशारत पीर की यह किताब बताती है कि कश्मीर झुलसी हुयी रोटी से भी ज्यादा बदतर हालत में है।
भारतीय सेना ने समूचे कश्मीर को यातनागृह और बलात्कार घर बना डाला है। कश्मीर में जगह-जगह बनाए गये यातनागृह अबू गरेब और ग्वांतानामो यातनागृहों की याद दिलाते हैं। भारतीय सेना को छूट मिली हुयी है कि वह कश्मीर में लोगों को नृशंस यातनाएं दे, औरतांे के साथ नृशंस बलात्कार करे, लोगों को जान से मार दे, घरों-बस्तियों-गांव को जला दे, उजाड़ दे। एक और सोची समझी तरकीब निकाली है सेना ने, कि यातना देकर कश्मीरी नौजवानों को नपुंसक बना दिया जाए ताकि वे प्रेम व प्रजनन करने के लायक न रहें। इस तरह उसने कश्मीरी यौनिकता के खिलाफ भी लड़ाई छेड़ रखी है। सेना लोगों को गायब भी कर देती है या उनका अपहरण कर लेती है, और फिर उनका पता नहीं चलता। नृशंस यातना व नृशंस बलात्कार की घटनाओं के जो ब्यौरे किताब में दिये गये हैं, वे रांेंगटे खड़ा कर देते हैं। शादी की रात दुल्हन से सैनिकों द्वारा बलात्कार की घटना दिल दहला देती है। भारत का लोकतन्त्र, भारत की सारी संवैधानिक संस्थाएं कश्मीर में भारतीय सेना के बूट की नोक हैं।
‘‘कफ्र्यूड नाइट’’ या कफ्र्यूग्रस्त रात रूपक भी है। समूचे कश्मीर में अन्तहीन रात फैली है और वह कफ्र्यू से घिरी हुयी है। वहां दिन का वक्त भी कफ्र्यूग्रस्त रात का आभास दिलाता है। कश्मीर के काफी बड़े हिस्से में दिन ढलते और शाम होते ही सेना द्वारा घोषित कफ्र्यू लागू हो जाता है और यह सूरज के उगने तक जारी रहता है। समूचा कश्मीर सेना के हवाले है। कश्मीर में जो तबाही है, और जिसकी वजह से कश्मीरी जनता मंे जबरदस्त गुस्सा, हताशा, अलगाव व परायापन है- उसे कफ्र्यूड नाइट अन्तरंग गद्य में लिपिबद्ध करती चलती है। यह एक प्रकार से कश्मीर का , कश्मीर के अपने एक अन्दरूनी व्यक्ति की ओर से लिखा गया इतिहास भी है। कश्मीर की यह कहानी शायद ही इसके पहले कभी इस तरह कही गयी हो।

October 5, 2009

GRAVEST DISPLACEMENT…… BRAVEST RESISTANCE – Sudha bharadwaj

Filed under: Politics — movementofthought @ 12:44 pm

[Famous Latin American writer Eduardo Galeano says ” development develops inequality”. But here in India, development develops inequality as well as displacement. It is estimated that after 1947, 6 crore people have been displaced because of this so-called ‘development’…..  After 1990 it gained such a momentum that have never seen before.. Now a days centre of displacements are Bastar and Jharkhand. Political activist Sudha Bhardwaj is giving a chilling details of this displacement and resultant resistance. – Editor]

GRAVEST DISPLACEMENT…… BRAVEST RESISTANCE …… The Struggle of Adivasis of Bastar, Chhattisgarh Against Imperialist Corporate Landgrab. Sudha Bharadwaj “The rule of law does not do away with the unequal distribution of wealth and power but reinforces that inequality with the authority of law. It allocates wealth and poverty in such complicated and indirect ways as to leave the victim bewildered.” Howard Zinn Dedicated to the memory of Tapasi Malik,, Dula Mandal, Lakhiram Tuddu, Satyabhama ……….. Whose names we know, And the hundreds of adivasis of Bastar Whose names will remain unknown till we claim them. Why this essay? I don’t live in Bastar, and I am not an adivasi. But I have been active in the working class movement of Chhattisgarh for the past 22 years, a movement that became legendary under the charismatic leadership of Comrade Shankar Guha Niyogi. And I strongly feel that understanding what is happening in Bastar today is of the greatest significance not only to us in Chhattisgarh, but to all those who want to understand imperialist onslaught and corporate land grab, particularly in the resource-rich adivasi areas; for all those involved nationwide in the anti-displacement movement which is day on day becoming a fierce life-and-death struggle against all odds; and in fact for all of us in the peoples’ movements who are faced with the abysmally criminal failure of democratic institutions and shrinking democratic spaces on the one hand, and growing repression on the other. Justice Krishna Iyer, in a speech delivered in the memory of Com. Niyogi said that “he tried boldly and bravely to bring the Constitution to life for lakhs of miners and contract labourers”. Com. Niyogi was murdered on 28th September 1991 within a fortnight of his petitioning the highest constitutional authority of this land – the President of India. The industrialists convicted for his murder by the Sessions Court of Durg were acquitted by the High Court and Supreme Court. The thousands of workers of Bhilai, for whose cause he laid down his life, are still out of work, their cases pending in the High Court. The last essay he wrote, with an uncharacteristic urgency, was “Rajeev Gandhi Ki Hatya Kyon?” (“Why was Rajiv Gandhi murdered?”) in which he forcefully argued that Rajiv Gandhi, though himself of the “liberalization” paradigm, was considered to be moving too slowly and was eliminated to allow “those who wanted the dollar to move in fast” to have their way. Com. Niyogi predicted that unless there was a widespread debate and churning among the patriotic and democratic sections of the people, our country would become the “grazing ground of the multinationals”, for now “only those persons will occupy the seats of power, whom the multinationals favour”. At that time, in May 1991, his article seemed to many, to be exaggerated or the usual leftist conspiracy theory. Now we know, it was prophetic. This essay is part of that debate. In the numerous industrial areas across Chhattisgarh today, the very blood of young contract labourers is being sucked as they labour for 12-14 hours, for far less than minimum wages, without weekly holidays, and without safety or medical facility, to generate the enormous wealth of “Chhattisgarh Shining!” Unionizing them doesn’t only mean facing the goondas of the industrialists, risking the loss of precarious jobs, sustaining an uncompromising struggle against great odds, and developing a mature and bold leadership that can withstand both carrot and stick – though this is a tall enough order. It also means struggling against the serious imperialist onslaught against the people of Chhattisgarh. An onslaught where gigantic multinationals like Holcim and Lafarge are gobbling up the cement sector, they have already acquired ACC, Ambuja, and Raymond Cements. Taking advantage of rich limestone deposits, they are manufacturing the cheapest cement in the world, earning superprofits and planning to set up new capacities. Between them and the big Indian cement manufacturers like Aditya Birla they have formed the “Chhattisgarh Cement Manufacturers Association” a cartel that has its office at a stones throw from Chief Minister Raman Singh’s residence – a proximity symbolic of their stranglehold influence over the state administration. These companies are blatantly violating well-established Indian labour standards that prohibit the use of contract labour in cement manufacture, and mandate that contract labour be paid at par with regular workers, i.e at the rate of the Cement Wage Board. (Holcim, for instance, has appealed against an Award obtained by our union to regularize 573 contract workers whose contracts were held to be sham and bogus.)They are refusing to abide by the State Rehabilitation Policy which prescribes permanent jobs for those displaced by their plants, and are in fact creating an explosive situation in the rural areas by employing outsiders in preference to the affected peasants. Under the leadership of the Pragatisheel Cement Shramik Sangh and the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (Mazdoor Karyakarta Committee) – workers, peasants and particularly women – have been militantly struggling and have had some success in enforcing minimum wages and getting some affected peasants employed in these factories. But we still need to forge a unity of all cement workers in Chhattisgarh, across union lines, to wage a serious struggle demanding that multinationals implement the law of the land. On the other hand, the local small and medium steel industry of Chhattisgarh is facing a severe crisis, hundreds of units – mini steel plants, sponge iron units, rolling mills – are closing down, and thousands of workers are facing the threat of retrenchment. This crisis is another facet of the imperialist onslaught. The best quality iron ore of Chhattisgarh is literally flowing out as slurry, day after day, to be shipped out to Japan costing it a mere Rs. 400 a tonne. The State government is only too keen to sign MOUs with the big corporate houses – Tata, Essar, Mittal, Jindal…. and to practically gift away the best deposits of iron ore as captive mines at a measly royalty of Rs. 50 a tonne. But the local industry is having to purchase iron ore at open market rates, which had touched upto Rs. 5800 per tonne recently. Along with our union the Jan Adharit Engineering Mazdoor Union, the CMM has been continuously protesting against these pro-imperialist policies in order to save local industry and jobs, and exhorting the local industrialists not to be “penny wise and pound foolish” in trying to make up the lakhs of losses on raw material costs by squeezing a few thousands out of the workers legal wages. But, increasingly it is becoming more clear to us that the factories are not the only battleground against imperialist and monopoly capital, the hardest struggles are in the countryside where these companies are zeroing in on mineral resources, and are engaged in a land grab on an unbelievable scale. Whether for coal blocks in Raigarh, or a power plant in Premnagar, cement plants in Tilda, or a large industrial area in Rajnandgaon, bauxite mining in Sarguja and Jashpur, sponge iron plants in Raipur or diamond mining in Devbhog. Peasants everywhere – particularly adivasis and dalits – are facing and resisting displacement – compromising weakly at some places, facing repression determinedly at others. 41 and now 65 more villages near Raipur are to be displaced for a glittering new capital region of Corporate Chhattisgarh; 9 villages for an army camp next to the new High Court premises close to Bilaspur; 7 villages for an air force base in Rajnandgaon. Not to mention displacement for a Tiger Reserve, Elephant Reserve, Wild life Sanctuaries etc. in Bilaspur, Jashpur and Dhamtari districts… The list is endless. CMM has been active in the anti-displacement movement – in opposing the demolition of urban bastis, particularly in the industrial areas where the lowly paid contract workers live; in organising the already displaced peasants around industrial establishments to demand jobs; and in playing a prominent role along with the Sanyukta Kisan Morcha in stalling the acquisition of 7 villages at Rajnandgaon for a Special Industrial Zone. It has expressed solidarity with the Raigarh Bachao Sangharsh Samiti which has been fighting the total domination of the Jindal group with its ‘private army’. A group notorious for land grabbing, brokering of material inputs for local small industry, rampant exploitation of workers and pollution of the air, soil and water of Raigarh district. A peasant woman Satyabhama had lost her life, ironically on the 26th of January 1998, when being force-fed to break the indefinite fast she had undertaken to save the waters of the Kelo river from pollution by Jindal. (In yet another example of the obscene hypocrisies that we now take for granted like Satyam winning the Golden Peacock Global Award for corporate governance, the Jindal Steel and Power Limited recently received the “Srishti Green Cube Award 2007 for Good Green Governance” from Sheela Dikshit, the Chief Minister of Delhi!) The CMM has also been an active participant in the anti-displacement front Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan, which was launched at Ranchi on 23rd March 2007, and which has been attempting to unite the people’s resistance to displacement countrywide. The struggle to bring the MOUs of Tata and Essar in Bastar and Dantewada into the public domain; the fake gramsabhas in Lohandiguda and Dhurli blocks conducted at gunpoint to obtain consent for land acquisition, and presided over by the Salwa Judum supremo and District Investment Promotion Board Chairman Mahendra Karma; the arrests of vocal villagers including when they were on their way to keep a scheduled appointment with the Governor; the slapping of cases under the National Security Act on activists of the Adivasi Mahasabh a; the FIRs that were finally lodged, after repeated complaints, against sundry dalals of Tata for the “fake compensations” given to the wrong persons and even in the name of the dead; these are events about which I and the CMM have had personal knowledge, and about which we have continuously raised our voice. CMM had organized torchlight processions in several industrial centres protesting against the arrest of Manish Kunjam and other leaders of the Adivasi Mahasabha on the eve of the gram sabhas organized in Lohandiguda and Bhansi to protest land acquisition. But I could only grasp the enormity of the information blackout – the silence, half truths and sheer lies – call it the “wall of silence”, that exists between Bastar and the rest of Chhattisgarh, when as an active member of the Chhattisgarh PUCL, I joined several fact finding teams to investigate into fake encounters. When we found out that the shiksha karmis and student killed in Gollapalli allegedly in “Naxalite cross fire” had actually been murdered by the police and SAF even after they had repeatedly asserted their identity; when the “dreaded Naxalites encountered” in Nayapara turned out to be adivasis who had returned to their ancestoral village in search of work; when the theory of “accidental firing because of hidden Naxalites” in the Cherpal Salwa Judum camp was boldly rubbished by the villagers in the camp who were furious at the killing of a woman and a small baby by a trigger happy CRPF jawan. In the media we repeatedly saw a total silence about ordinary people on the one hand, and cymbal-clashing war-cries against Maoists, always pictured as AK-47 toting with sinisterly covered faces, on the other. Each time we uncovered the truth, which, mind you, was absolutely self-evident to the local people, and tried to cross the “wall”, it was buried again under a heap of papers – false statements, half-hearted enquiries, politically loaded commentaries and the inevitable conclusions justifying the atrocities. In short, back to square one. This is another attempt to scale that wall. “Rich Lands of Poor People”: Scenario of Chhattisgarh Chandra Bhushan, a researcher on mineral policy writes: “India announced a new National Mineral Policy (for non-coal and non-fuel minerals) in early April (2008), after two-and-a-half years of wrangling between mineral-rich states and the central government, between steel-makers, iron ore miners and exporters. The objective of this policy, NMP-2008, is clear: it will promote privately-owned, large-scale, mechanized mines – if they happen to be controlled by multinationals, still better…. NMP-2008 ignores the fact that mining in India is not only about minerals and a simple ‘dig and sell’ proposition, it is about tribals and backward castes and their land and livelihood alienation. It is about poverty, backwardness and Naxalism. It is also about deforestation and biodiversity impact, water security and pollution.” Ravi Tiwari, General Secretary of the Chhattisgarh Cement Manufacturers’ Association accidently blurts out the truth when he states in an article dated 25/9/2007 in the “Jansatta”. “This State is as rich under its soil, as those who dwell on it are economically impoverished.” He tells us that Chhattisgarh has more than 28 precious mineral resources including limestone, dolomite, coal, iron ore, diamond, gold, quartzite, tin ore, tin metal, granite, corrundum, marble, beryl, bauxite, uranium, alexandrite, copper, silica, fluorite and garnet. In September 2008, a road blockade by hundreds of villagers of the “Jameen Bachao Sangharsh Samiti” stalled a proposal for acquiring an area of over 105 square kilometers situated in 30 villages of Kunkuri Tehsil of district Jashpur to the Jindal Power and Steel Limited “to prospect for gold, diamond, platinum group of minerals, precious and semiprecious gemstones”. The way companies are zeroing on mineral resources is illustrated by the cement sector. There are about 8225 million tones of limestone in Chhattisgarh, predominantly in the Raipur, Durg, Janjgir, Bilaspur, Rajnandgaon, Kawardha and Bastar districts, a large proportion of which is cement grade. Today more than 6% of the country’s cement is produced here by 7 large and 4 small cement plants with a total capacity of nearly 10.5 million tones. In the past decade the unit of the public sector Cement Corporation of India at Mandhar has closed down and the well-known brands of ACC and Ambuja have been taken over by the Swiss multinational Holcim. Indeed 12.5% of Holcim’s total sales internationally are now from its 24 Indian plants. The French multinational Lafarge has also taken over two cement plants in Chhattisgarh. In its last term the Raman Singh government has signed MOUs with 11 companies, for setting up new plants as well as expanding old ones. If these new capacities are achieved, it would more than triple the cement production to about 36 million tones. Seven percent of the country’s bauxite, about 198 million tones, is available in the Sarguja, Jashpur, Kawardha, Kanker and Bastar districts. It is being mined at present in Sarguja by the now privatized Balco (Sterlite) company in Chhattisgarh and Birla’s Hindalco company of Uttar Pradesh. More than 200 adivasi families have lost their lands to Hindalco so far and the process is still continuing. Although theoretically a lease agreement is executed, which states that the company would restore the land to its original condition as far as is practicable, but in reality no rent whatsoever is paid, and in the name of employment one person from the affected family works as lowly paid contract labour. Discontent is rife among these landless adivasi miners. It is pertinent that Dheeraj Jaiswal, a notorious SPO in erstwhile SP Kalluri’s retinue, and charged of many fake encounters and rapes in the name of fighting Naxals, doubles up as a goonda for Hindalco, patrolling the area in the company jeep to keep its labour in order. Bauxite is processed into aluminium, an important input in the aviation and defence industry. There is a global scarcity of this mineral, so the corporate hawks are always on the lookout for potential deposits. Sixteen percent of the country’s coal, a whopping 39,545 million tones is to be found in the Raigarh, Sarguja, Koriya and Korba districts of northern Chhattisgarh. On 5th January 2007, the adivasis of Village Khamariya, Tehsil Tamnar were subjected to vicious and brutal lathicharge when in a public hearing ostensibly arranged by the district administration, but clearly dominated by the Jindal company, they raised objections to giving up their lands to the Jindal Coal Mines. The public hearings for environmental clearances to three more power projects including AES Chhattisgarh Power (a joint venture with the American energy giant) were recently stalled by villagers protesting that they had not been notified and that they apprehended widespread pollution. The Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative Ltd (IFFCO) had to withdraw its proposal of setting up a 1000 mw coal-based thermal power plant in Premnagar in Sarguja district in March after strong protests. The villagers organized in the “Gram Sabha Parishad” had attacked IFFCO officials conducting “secret surveys” and had protested the diversion of the Atem river for the plant. When the company persisted and got their leader arrested, over 1,000 people marched to the police station to get him released. The new site subsequently chosen by IFFCO, 10km away, also came into serious controversy in November 2008, when villagers who had passed a resolution against the project, found that their Sarpanch was being whisked away secretly to a meeting in a police jeep, disguised as a policeman! All this would have been amusing, had it not been so dead serious. The very first notification issued by the BJP govt. of Chhattisgarh after its recent electoral victory was of the splitting up of the Chhattisgarh State Electricity Board into 5 separate companies, a move which had been consistently resisted by the workers’ and engineers’ associations. This move is widely seen as a hidden privatization, and foreign, particularly American, companies are also reported to be in the bidding. Chhattisgarh produces the cheapest electricity in the country and private players after taking over the CSEB would use cut-throat competition to push other State Electricity Boards out of the running. It would also mean a neglect of rural electrification because it entails greater distribution costs. The workers of CSEB, particularly the independent “Vidyut Karmachari Janta Union” are on strike, and ESMA has been invoked against them. For the proposed power plant of the CSEB at Bhaiyathan in Sarguja, a private developer – Indiabulls Power Generation Ltd would be the main player, the CSEB basically providing the fig-leaf with a 26% stake, since the coal blocks have been allotted in its name. Even otherwise, in the coal sector, the presence of the coal mafia is so overpowering that an MP of Dhanbad has alleged in a letter to the concerned Parliamentary Committee that “SECL could earn only Rs 800 crore profit in the fiscal year 2006-07 whereas it (the earning) could have been more than Rs 30,000 crore if the government could have reduced the pilferage.” In particular, it is an open secret that in Chhattisgarh, the Aryan Coal Beneficiaries company (which virtually runs the pro-BJP daily newspaper Haribhoomi) has a monopoly over the washery business and therefore makes a lot of money at SECL’s expense. With the changes in mining policy permitting foreign companies, the Arrow company has started drilling the first of thirteen wells at the Tatapani-Ramkola blocks approximately 90 km south of Ambikapur in district Sarguja. The well is being drilled by the Australian drilling company South West Pinnacle Drilling and coal is expected to be touched at a depth of 500-900m. Remember Dilip Singh Judeo, “Raja” of Jashpur and BJP leader of the aggressive re-conversion movement against the Christian community, being caught taking bribes on camera from a company representative before the last assembly elections? What is rarely revealed is that the company was the Australian mining giant – Broken Hill Properties (BHP). One-fifth of the country’s iron ore – about 2336 million tones averaging 68% purity is found in the Dantewada, Kanker, Rajnandgaon, Bastar and Durg districts. The Bhilai Steel Plant is one of the world’s most efficient steel plants, yet it is being deliberately tripped up by private players particularly Jindal Steel & Power. The scramble for the best deposits have started between the public sector NMDC and the Tata and Essar groups, with litigation pending in the Delhi High Court. But this is not all. It is claimed that Tata has acquired Corus. And that Essar Steel is to buy the American steel firm Esmark. Last year, Essar bought Minnesota Steel for an undisclosed sum, only days after it also agreed to acquire Canadian firm Algoma Steel for $1.6bn. The elite of India choose to regard these events as a coming of age of India Inc. and a mark of our becoming a global superpower. The Esmark chief executive James Bouchard, is more forthright and says “Esmark needed a strategic partner as raw material and transport costs rose”. In other words, Essar and Tata are going to be the Indian face of the big foreign mining companies who are facing a raw material crunch today. All these acquisitions have been financed by hefty loans from FFIs, which are going to be a stone around the necks of these companies in the present financial crisis. On 17th May 2008, about 5,000 tribals from 25 villages took out a two-day ‘padyatra’ under the banner of ‘Adivasi Mahasabha’ from Bhansi, where the proposed steel plant of Essar is to come up, to Faraspal of district Dantewada, to protest mining of iron ore from the Bailadila mountains. They claimed that the government has granted mining leases to 96 industrial houses besides Tata and Essar in the Bailadila area and demanded that the mountains, 40 km long and 10km wide, which contained iron ore deposits to the tune of 300 crore tonnes should not be given on lease to private companies for mining as it could pose a threat to the existence of the mountains as also the culture of local tribals. As regards the earnings of the state, Praveen Patel of the Tribal Welfare Society reveals some startling details: “There is nothing to take pride in the news that Chhattisgarh has earned Rs.7 billion in mineral royalty on coal, bauxite and iron ores during the first nine months of the current fiscal year 2007-08. The government states that over 2 lakh tonnes of iron ore has been excavated in first nine months but what about the rate of Royalty earned in iron ore only? Why are those figures not shared with the public. Let me throw some idea to lift the veil. As per my information, the average royalty of iron ore which the state has collected is about Rs. 27/- per metric tonne only whereas the current international rates of iron ore are in the range of above US $ 210. It would have been better, if the government would have stated bluntly that they are allowing the daylight robbery of iron ore, the parallel of which is not seen anywhere else in the world.” The Bastar region is one of the richest in mineral resources – not only in iron ore, but also perhaps a host of other unexplored minerals including limestone, bauxite, and even diamond and uranium. In 2005 it was not only with Tata and Essar and Texas Power Generation that confidential MOUs were signed allotting iron ore deposits, coal blocks, and hectares and hectares of land, but scores of companies were given prospecting and mining licenses. Some of these MOUs were signed abroad, and rumours were rife about the enrichment of bureaucrats and politicians, and also of course contribution to the party coffers. Unfortunately for the powers that be, however, there happened to be lakhs of adivasis – neglected, exploited and oppressed by the “mainstream” – literally sitting on top of these most precious assets, and even more unfortunately for them, since the early 80’s the Naxal movement had dug deep roots there. The estimate of the then Director General of Police DGP Rathore was that there were about 50,000 “Sangham” (or members of the peasant committees and women and youth organizations) of the Maoists in the year 2005. And so started the “Salwa Judum” a massive and brutal ground clearing operation that was to affect about 3.5 lakhs of adivasis in 644 villages, the most widespread displacement anywhere in the country. “Draining out the water and killing the fish” was the expression used by Mahendra Karma. “Jan Denge, Jameen Nahi Denge!” – A Fierce Resolve. “Those who are going to become homeless and uprooted in this race of so-called development, they will also be finally forced to accept the bitter truth that they cannot stop the loot of their lands and resources by any democratic and non-violent means. This is a dangerous situation. Even a combative organization like “Narmada Bachao Andolan”, which included a large number of educated persons, has accepted the bitter truth that there is no administrative or legal means of preventing the loot of resources. Now it is only through unity and by force that these plunderers can be stopped. That is the reason why today, in Kalingnagar, Nandigram etc. there is a situation of “do or die”. All these struggles are proving to be landmarks in stopping the loot. The people of these areas have firmly resolved that come what may, they will not let any government officer set foot on their land. In these circumstances if the government uses force, violence may erupt.” Prashant Bhushan, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court “Stop Land Acquisition”, Nai Azadi Udghosh, February 2007 (Translation ours) All over the country the peasantry is up in arms against the policy of land acquisition and Special Economic Zones. Jhajjar in Haryana, Dadri in Uttar Pradesh, Raigarh and Madgaon in Maharashtra, the Chengara struggle of Kerala, the struggles in Polavaram and Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh, agitations against the acquisition for JP Cement in Rewa and for Reliance, Essar and Hindalco in Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh…. Within a year of the passage of the SEZ Act, 300 SEZs had been sanctioned giving 1,40,000 hectares of land to private companies. The draconian provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 do not give the peasant any remedy once the state rejects any objections he/she makes, and declares that his/her land has to be acquired for public purpose. The Judiciary of this country, led by the apex court, has been, if anything, implementing the policies of imperialist globalization more consistently and harshly than the Executive. It has refused to review what is considered “public purpose” by the government in the name of not interfering with government policy. It has stated that the directive principles – which hold that a) the resources of the people held in trust by governments must be used for the greatest common good, and b) that the concentration of wealth in a few hands should be discouraged – are not enforceable by a court of law. In other words, the “socialism” of the Preamble has no place in this era. Our Indian Judiciary has gone a step ahead of the British colonial masters who at least distinguished between “acquisition for companies” and “acquisition for public purpose” by providing for them in two separate chapters of the Land Acquisition Act. In fact, earlier, when the government acquired for companies, it was necessary to follow the rules framed in this regard, which mandated that the government enquire whether other alternative non-agricultural land was available or not, and whether the company had made adequate efforts to purchase the land itself, before it stepped in. Under the euphemism of “public private partnership”, development has been redefined to mean that public resources are to be used for private profits! So much for the Constitution! Interestingly the Secretary of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation came out with a report recently, expressing grave concern that rich countries and rich companies were taking over vast tracts of lands in poor nations, seriously jeopardizing food security. The report gave an instance of 10 lakh hectares of land being taken over in Madagascar where conditions of starvation are prevailing among the rural masses. In fact the report went a step further and said this tendency could be described as “neo-colonialism”! Our country is indeed faithfully following this path charted out for it. The loot of precious mineral resources has further intensified from adivasi areas all over the country since 2005. And the adivasis, with their sense of identity and dignity, their communal way of life in co-existence with nature, and their strength of collectivity have been resisting it with all the strength at their command. The eastern states of Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh and the contiguous parts of West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh have become the storm centre of this resistance. As part of a People’s Tribunal into the police firing that took place in Tapkara block close to Ranchi, we witnessed large defiant mobilizations of adivasi people and saw the ”janta barrier” they had put up to keep out government and NHPC officials trying to implement the Koel Karo dam project. The project had finally to be given up. In Jharkhand alone, 46 MOUs have been signed including with Arcelor Mittal, but so far not even a single company has been able to set up its plant. Peoples’ movements have sprung up spontaneously and are holding out their own against powerful companies. And no doubt the overarching presence of the Maoist movement in the background has prevented the State from deploying overwhelming force to crush the peoples’ movements. The incident of police firing described below is considered to be one of the factors leading to the recent defeat of Sibu Soren. *”We shall give up our lives but not land.” The slogan is overwhelming across the state of Jharkhand against displacement induced by the development projects. It is not only a slogan for the Adivasis but it is also their determination, pledge and hope to ensure their ownership rights over the natural resources i.e. land, forest and water. They have already won the battle against the Field Firing Range in Netarhat and the Power Project in Koel-Karo near Ranchi, which has inspired another ten thousand Adivasis of Kathikund and Shikaripara blocks of Dumka district too. They have called off a “Janta Curfew” in the areas against the police firing, which took place on December 6 2008, where activist Lakhiram Tuddu lost his life and 7 people were severely injured including 3 police men. The incident took place, when 5 thousand people had gathered near Kathikund Police station under “Jail Bharo Abhiyan” against the arrest of activists – Munni Hansada, Charan Kumar, Hopna Baski and Rajcharan Murmu and demanding for their immediate release. ….The problem had started in the region in 2005 when the RPG group power utility, CESC Ltd had signed an MoU with Arjun Munda, the former chief minister of Jharkhand on 15 of September 2005 for setting up a coal based mega power plant with the capacity of 1000 mega watt and an estimated investment of Rs. 4,000 crore. The company requires 1000 acres of land for the plant, where 6 villages would be ruined and 10 thousand people would be displaced. But the fact is the company would provide merely 250 mega watts to the Jharkhand State Electricity Board at regulated prices while the remaining 750 mega watts would be given to the national grid. In this case, how does the state government envisage addressing the power crisis? Another big traditional meeting was held at Pokharia village of Kathikund in Dumka on May 8, 2008, where thousands of Adivasi men, women and children had gathered in the blazing sun. The agriculture minister Nalin Soren was socially boycotted for offering Rs. 13 lakh cash, one vehicle and Rs. 20 thousand per month as honorarium to the village-head Fulo Marandi of Amgachi of Dumka district for convincing the villagers to surrender their land for the proposed power plant. The other five villagers were found guilty as they had guided Basant Soren the son of Sibu Soren in approaching the village head when he had visited Amgachi village to convince the village head for the project and the crime of the police officer Jai Prakash Toppo was for refusing to hand over these five middle men to the villagers therefore he was also socially boycotted. It was also declared in the “Dishum Baishi” that the land would not be given for the company at any cost and every one would be punished who would be found guilty in land alienation activities.” Gladson Dungdung, Indigenous India Blogspot. “The war for land surfaced with a vicious intensity in Jharkhand when angry villagers first thrashed Bhushan Power and Steel Company’s surveyors, then blackened their faces and made them chew their shoes before garlanding them with slippers and parading them at Sarmohuda village in East Singbhum district. The incident forced Bhushan Power and Steel Company Limited to announce suspension of its acquisition drive for its Rs 12,000 crore greenfield steel plant in Potka block of the district. Apart from the three million tonne Greenfield steel plant, Bhushan also proposes to set up a 900 mw power plant. The three land surveyors, Yusuf Ahmed, Sahdeo Singh and Sheetal Kumar were stopped by villagers who had gathered under the banner of Gram Ganraj Parishad and Bhoomi Sudhar Andolan, and after the thrashing, bound and dragged them to the police station, a Bhushan Steel spokesman said . Bhoomi Sudhar Andolan Convenor Ramesh Hansda alleged that the company was conducting the land survey without permission from the district administration, a charge denied by Bhushan Steel.” Sanjay Ojha, TNN, 13 Sepember 2008. “Step into Jharkahnd’s Tentoposi village in Seraikela district and you will be greeted with hostile glances. Sitting on rich mineral reserves of iron ore, residents of this village are constantly under the fear of displacement and loss of livelihood sources. Tata Steel has already announced that it will set up a 12-million tonne integrated steel plant in the area at an investment of Rs 42,000 crore and has signed an MOU with the state government. The villagers suspect that there are people lurking around the village to usurp their land. Hence, they are on alert. They have created a security cordon around the village. Volunteers, wielding bows and arrows, guard the barricaded village at all hours. No government official or a media person is allowed in. There are several other companies eying the rich mineral deposits of this tribal-dominated state. Since the state was carved out of Bihar in 2000, the state government has signed 44 MOUs with companies like Arcelor Mittal, Tata and Jindal for mega industrial ventures worth Rs 198,362 crore. These prospective investors will acquire over 45,000 hectares and eventually displace more than 1,000,000 people, mostly from the east and west Singhbhum and Seraikela-Kharswan region, says Xaviar Dias, coordinator of Bindrai Institute of Research Study and Action (birsa), a Jharkhand-based tribal rights group. Recent incidents at Singur (in West Bengal) and Kalinganagar (in Orissa) have incensed the tribals more. They have vowed to sacrifice their lives to protect their land rather than vacate it for industrial development. All villages where the industrial giants have announced to set up projects are currently under the vigilance of more than 60 tribal organizations. Under the banner of Jharkhand Mines Area Coordination Committee (jmacc), these groups have announced a battle against mining and displacement. “The minerals will be tainted with blood if any of these companies dare to acquire even an inch of tribal land,” says Puneet Minz, general secretary of jmacc. Minz refuses to divulge names or any information about the tribal groups involved in the anti-displacement movement. “Police and the state machinery are after us. Once we disclose the names, they will be either picked up or tortured to quit the movement,” says Minz.” A K Gupta, Down to Earth In Orissa, the Hirakud dam was in the news for two reasons recently. One was that the oustees of the dam received compensation after 4-5 decades. The other was that the farmers of the area were strongly protesting the diversion of water from the Hirakud dam to industry. This in a nutshell spells out the cruel apathy that development has been for tribal people, and lays bare the sound reasoning behind what appears to be a stubborn or irrational resistance to acquisition and industrialization. That is, that not only the displaced but even the so-called beneficiaries are bound to be cheated when the state’s singular concern is to aid the fattening of private capital, and incidentally the fattening of its own representatives in the bargain. “Farmers say they will not accept anything less than a complete ban on industrial use of the dam water. On March 23 2008, Bhagat Singh’s 76th martyrdom day the farmers renewed their pledge to continue their fight for water. They gathered at ‘Chasi Rekha’, a border wall inside the reservoir beyond which industrial units are not allowed to draw water. Holding the dam water in their palms, they pledged: “We will not allow company raj on Hirakud water. “On November 6, 2007, some 30,000 farmers had gathered at the reservoir in Sambalpur district. Many were injured in police lathicharge (see ‘Groundswell’, *Down To Earth*, December 31, 2007). Soon after the incident, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced a Rs 200-crore package for the repair and renovation of the Hirakud canal system. Lingaraj, convenor of the Western Orissa Farmers Coordination Committee, says the package is aimed at diverting attention from the core issue of water diversion. They want the government to cancel all post-2003 agreements with industrial units and reach water to over 20,000 hectares in the command area. Another of their demands is that Patnaik should punish companies illegally drawing water from the dam. Ranjan K Panda Meanwhile the private violence by company goons of POSCO and the Tatas against the adivasi communities has been intensifying. Abhay Sahoo, the popular leader of the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti was arrested on 12th October 2008 when he was undergoing treatment at Bhutmundei, Paradeep and 23 false cases were foisted on him so as to deny him bail. The events of Orissa have forced the organizations and activists of the anti-displacement movements to think and debate how to resist state violence and private corporate violence, and to assert the right of the people to resist under all circumstances and by all means. We in CMM also experienced this when we visited the Boringpader village in Lanjigarh (Niyamgiri) district Kalahandi in 2005. When a police jeep was seen in the distance, the entire village came out – women, men and children with whatever they could lay hands on – bows and arrows, axes, sickles and sticks. The jeep stopped at a distance and a policeman came out with his hands raised in a gesture of surrender. When he came closer he told the leaders apologetically that he had been sent from the police station to get the details of the visitors. After taking those he left, and the people relaxed. Later the villagers explained that the first time they had taken out a procession against the Vedanta company, the company goons had attacked them ferociously, people had fled in fright and had been chased away for several kilometres. Ever since then, they said, they always carry their traditional weapons and no-one has dared to attack their processions and meetings! JAGATSINGHPUR, June 26, 2008: Lawlessness reigned supreme in Govindpur village as anti-Posco activists, on the rampage since last week following the death of one of their activist Dula Mandal, today confined two persons and claimed recovery of huge cache of weapons and bombs from Govindpur school premises. The Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samity (PPSS) activists claimed to have made a break through to the assault and murder of Dula Mandal. We confronted a pro-project activist Mr Narottam Mohanty, confined and interrogated him, they said. Some of the anti-Posco activists then assaulted schoolteacher Mr Jadumani Das to ascertain as to who had attacked Mandal. Basing on the information provided by Mr Mohanty and Mr Das, they raided the school premises and claimed to have recovered six boxes containing country bombs, 75 swords and other weapons. It may be noted here that Mandal and other anti-Posco activists had clashed near the Govindpur primary schools premises on 20 June. Bombs were hurled and Dula Mandal died in the attack. The PPSS which is observing a Black Week since 22 June, had alleged that it was a pre-planned attack by goons who had been hiding at the school. The counter version was that a pro-project faction was holding a meeting at the school when their rivals started pelting stones leading to the violence. Police had arrested 22 people in this connection with the clash even as PPSS activists aggressively held a meeting attended by CPI leader Mr AB Bardhan and leaders of all Opposition political parties.” Statesman News Service. “Trouble started brewing in Kalinga Nagar when on Monday TATA people tried performing religious rituals at the proposed site in Kalinga Nagar despite strong protests from locals. They were chased away by the local people but ultimately performed the ritual in a different place near Maithan steel plant. On Tuesday they made yet another attempt to break the people’s resistance with about 200 people camping in two different locations near the proposed site supposedly for the construction of the boundary wall which has stopped since 2nd Jan 06 when the police shot dead men, women and children. Kalinga Nagar Anti-displacement Forum activist (BBJM) Rabi Jarika claims these are not construction workers but goons deployed to attack and harm the tribals protesting against TATA. He is sure that the plan is to surround them from all sides and attack like it has happened in similar situations elsewhere be it proposed POSCO site at Dhinkia or Nandigram. Seeing the heavy deployment of the goons the locals have now also assembled at the proposed site and have braced themselves for yet another confrontation to save their land. The tension reached a high point yesterday when almost two dozen people in 7-8 motorcycles tried entering the proposed site. The locals claim some of them were the likes of goons from Jamsedhpur deployed by TATA in Kalinga Nagar. The locals captured these motorcycle borne troublemakers who were not harmed, though the motorcycles were set afire and broken “to make it loud and clear to the State and TATA company that they would continue to resist the land grab and any such attempt to snatch their constitutional rights” said Jarika. The motorcycle borne assailants are now hiding inside the Jindal steel plant premises. Rabi Jarika alleges that the district administration and police are hand in glove with TATA goons as they only could have allowed such a massive deployment of armed goons. According to the locals the TATA goons are well armed and have come in cars and motorcycles using the main roads. BBJM activists claim that such free movement of the goons can only be possible with the aid of the state. “Do they want another massacre like 2nd Jan” asked Dabar Kalundia who had survived a murderous attack on him by Arbind Sing, a TATA accomplice, on 1st May this year. In that attack Amin Banara, another BBJM activist had been killed by the bullets of the TATA goons. Previous to that Jogendra Jamuda had been attacked by armed men which he miraculously survived. “While the goons are armed with guns and bombs to attack us we are armed with our traditional weapons like arrows and axes to protect ourselves” said Kalundia. Some of the locals also allege that BJD minister Prafula Ghadei has a big role to play.” Surya, posted on the Cgnet. In West Bengal, the Singur Krishi Jameen Raksha Committee won a well-deserved victory with the retreat of the Tatas, who left “without paying their bill” (as aptly put by Shri D. Bandhopadhyay, ex Secretary for Land Reforms) of more than Rs. 532 crores spent by the West Bengal government on land acquisition, construction of boundary wall, police protection and subsidy on land transfer. After this, a vicious media campaign was carried out by this influential corporate group personally targetting Mamta Bannerji, to deflect the attention of the readership from the just struggle of the people of Singur against the acquisition of multi-crop fertile agricultural land and for the rights of tillers (as opposed to absentee landlords). Ratan Tata even issued an Open Letter to the youth of West Bengal exhorting them to side with Budhadeb to get development and jobs! The CPM cadres in turn set up a Nano Bachao Committee! A CBI court convicted Suhrid Dutta, CPM Zonal Secretary, in the murder of the young agitator Tapasi Malik. The CPM loudly proclaims itself as anti-imperialist, how then can it fail to see that today Tata, Ambani, Jindal, Mittal are the Indian face of that imperialism? The pattern of “development” being aggressively pushed by these corporate barons neither represents a rational and sustainable use of resources; nor substantial expansion of purchasing power and local markets; nor improvement in the extremely poor living standards of masses of our people, but is a mere integration into the loot machine of finance capital. The results are before us – a handful of billionaires, nearly two lakh peasant suicides, and 77% of our population earning less than Rs. 20 a day. In Nandigram, the notification for an SEZ – a chemical hub of the Salem group (notorious as “the mass killer of communists” in Indonesia) had to be cancelled following the widespread outrage against police firing on protesting peasants. After this there were repeated efforts by the government and CPM cadres to “recapture” Nandigram by brute force, which were militantly resisted by the Bhoomi Ucched Pratirodh Committee. The state’s argument was, that after the notification was cancelled the people did not have a right to prevent the entry of the police and government servants, that would amount to setting up a “parallel governance” which could not be tolerated. In a sense, this captures a fundamental feature of the resistance to acquisition today – the assertion of the people’s right to self-rule – as opposed to a struggle only for better compensation and rehabilitation. The embers of Singur and Nandigram had hardly died down, when Lalgarh in district West Medinipur burst into flames: “The entire chain of events started after the 2nd November land mine explosion targeting the convoy of West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and union steel and mines minister Ram Vilas Paswan as they were returning from the inauguration of the Jindal Steel Works special economic zone (SEZ) in Salboni in West Midnapore district. Around 5000 acres of land have been acquired for this project, of which 4500 acres have been handed over by the government and 500 acres have been purchased directly by Jindal from landowners. Reportedly, a large portion of this land was vested with the government for distribution amongst landless tribals as part of the land reforms program and also included tracts of forests……Understandably, there were major grievances amongst the tribals against this, although the mainstream media had constantly portrayed a very rosy picture of the entire project.The land mine explosion was blamed as usual on the Maoist insurgents allegedly active for a long time in Salboni and the adjacent Lalgarh area……The police and CRPF, led by the officer in charge of Lalgarh police station, Sandeep Sinha Roy and the superintendent of police of West Midnapore district, Rajesh Singh, unleashed a reign of terror in 35 villages encompassing the entire tribal belt of Lalgarh. In raids throughout the night of November 6th, women were brutally kicked and beaten up with lathis and butts of guns. Among the injured, Chitamani Murmu, one of whose eyes was hit by a gun butt, and Panamani Hansda, who was kicked on her chest and suffered multiple fractures, had to hospitalized. Chitamani’s lost her eye because of the injury. Eight other women were badly wounded. These police brutalities soon reached a point where the adivasis had no other option but to rise up in revolt. …… On 6th November they assembled near the Lalgarh police station and surrounded it, effectively cutting it off, and the policemen inside, who had been rampaging in villages the previous night but had now locked themselves inside the police station, did not dare to venture out. Electricity to the police station was disconnected and all the lights were broken. What began as rumblings of protest took the shape of a spontaneous mass uprising the next day. On 7th November, when the ruling CPI(Marxist) was “observing” the anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution throughout West Bengal, ten thousand Santhal men and women, armed with traditional weapons, came out and obstructed the roads leading to Lalgarh, disconnecting it from Midnapur and Bankura. Roads were dug up and tree trunks were placed on the road to obstruct the entry of police vehicles, in the same way as it had been done in Nandigram…… Towards the night of 7th November, the people also disconnected telephone and electricity lines, virtually converting a vast area into a liberated zone. The apex social organization of the Santhals, the Bharat Jakat Majhi Madwa Juan Gaonta took up the leadership of the struggle, although the leader of the organization, the “Disham Majhi” Nityananda Hembram has himself admitted that the organization has no control over the movement; rather the movement is controlling the organization. Smaller organizations of the tribals, such as the Kherwal Jumit Gaonta, that have been playing active roles in the struggle have openly called for armed resistance, stating that there is no other way for the survival of the adivasis. The demands of the adivasis were so “earthy” and original that the administration did not know how to respond. The demands were that the superintendent of police Rajesh Singh should publicly apologize by holding his ears and doing sit-ups, a traditional way of punishing errant youngsters, the guilty policemen should crawl on the streets of the villages where they had tortured people, rubbing their noses on the ground, again another traditional way of humiliating wrongdoers, and Rs 200,000 compensation for the injured and assaulted. The demands were marked by the total reliance of the adivasis on their traditional systems of dispensing justice, and not looking up to the formal judicial process which they have realized is by nature weighted against the poor and marginalized…….. On 10th November, adivasis led by the tribal social organizations set up new roadblocks in the Dahijuri area. When the police lathicharged the assembled people and arrested some of the leaders of the Gaontas, the situation turned explosive. The tribals surrounded the police officials present and a crowd of few thousand adivasis, armed with bows and arrows, axes and daggers, and led by women wielding broomsticks, chased the police for four kilometers along the road leading to Jhargram. The police were forced to retreat from the area and release all the leaders of the social organizations they had arrested…. The state has been helpless in front of this upsurge and has been trying to “negotiate” with the tribals. But what has been frustrating their efforts is the essentially democratic nature of this upsurge. Although the administration has been holding multiple all-party meetings with the dominant political parties, CPI(M), Trinamool Congress, Congress and the Jharkhand Party, the leaders of these parties have openly admitted to their inability to exert any influence on the adivasis. The adivasis are not letting any political leaders access to the movement, including tribal leaders like Chunibala Hansda, the Jharkhand Party (Naren faction) MLA from Binpur. They are demanding that any negotiations be carried out in the open rather than behind closed doors. Even traditional leaders like the “Disham Majhi” Nityananda Hembram and other “majhis” are having to talk directly with the adivasis before talking to the administration. Villagers of the ten villages in Lalgarh have formed ten village committees with one coordinating committee to negotiate with the administration. ……The state and the CPI(M) have not dared to respond with overt violence yet, although there are news that a motorbike-borne militia is being assembled nearby by Sushanta Ghosh, the notorious CPI(M) minister and Dipak Sarkar, the CPI(M) district secretary. …..It is quite expected that radical political forces would have been active among the adivasis as the latter have been the most downtrodden people in India and it is their land and resources which is being handed over for corporate plunder. However the presence and participation of the Maoists or similar forces in no way delegitimizes this seemingly spontaneous, and democratic, expression of people’s anger. This is amply expressed by what Arati Murmu, a woman who had been assaulted by the police, and who had gone to block the Lalgarh police station had to say: “Whenever there is a Maoist attack the police raid our villages and torture our women and children. For how long will we suffer this oppression by the police? All of us are Maoists, let the police arrest us. Today we have come out.” Partho Sarthi Ray, Sanhati, November 13, 2008. Global mining companies see Maoists as the greatest challenge to their penetration. In his article, ”The State As Landlord: Naxalism feeds off genuine issues. It calls for policy, not police”, in the weekly magazine ‘Outlook’, Prem Shankar Jha writes:- “Lakshmi Mittal of Arcelor fame is finally about to deliver on his promise to invest in his home country. The plans he has unveiled are mind-boggling: Rs 1,00,000 crore ($24 billion) to be invested in two steel plants and iron ore mines in Jharkhand and Orissa that will produce 24 million tonnes of steel when they come on stream. Planning for the project is going well: all that remains is to identify a source of iron ore for its Orissa plant. Herein lies the rub. For, if the Maoist insurgency in central India continues to develop at its present speed, he may never find the iron ore he needs to operate his plants……… Twenty-nine months after the first ‘swarm attack’ by 500 Maoist cadres backed by local tribals on the jail, police station and armoury in Jehanabad, ‘Naxalism’ is no longer considered a fringe phenomenon. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has candidly acknowledged that it is the most serious threat the country faces. But there is a huge gap between this realisation and the efforts that the government has made so far to meet it. Literally, all that it has done so far is to meet state governments’ increasingly urgent demands for modern weapons, additional CRPF battalions, and the training and despatch of counter-insurgency forces. But New Delhi knows that repression alone is not the answer. The Approach Paper for the 11th Plan could not have put this better or more explicitly: “Our practices regarding rehabilitation of those displaced from their land because of development projects are seriously deficient and are responsible for a growing perception of exclusion and marginalisation. The costs of displacement borne by our tribal population have been unduly high, and compensation has been tardy and inadequate, leading to serious unrest in many tribal regions. This discontent is likely to grow exponentially if the benefits from enforced land acquisition are seen accruing to private interests, or even to the state, at the cost of those displaced. To prevent even greater conflict…it is necessary to frame a transparent set of policy rules that address compensation, and make the affected persons beneficiaries of the projects, and to give these rules a legal format.” Despite its clear perception of the problem, the Manmohan Singh government has done nothing to ‘frame a transparent set of policy rules’ and give them a ‘legal format’. A part of the problem is that the power to acquire land for mines, in particular, was largely devolved to the state governments during the NDA regime, through an amendment of the 1957 Mines and Minerals Act. The NDA government also allowed foreign companies to enter this politically charged area of mineral development. These two enactments have given Naxalite leaders all the moral justification they need to mobilise armed resistance. With only a few exceptions, state leaders have used their powers of land acquisition to enrich themselves or fund their parties. It is no coincidence that the Communist Party (Maoist) came into being only two years after these amendments. While India Inc dreams of overtaking China, the Maoist insurgency has intensified. Since ’04, there have been more than 50 ‘swarm’ attacks on jails, police stations and armouries. All have met with total success. In two attacks in Orissa last month, the Maoists captured 1,600 weapons, including machine guns and AK-47s. In Orissa, 12,000 out of 30,000 posts in the police are vacant, and in three districts they have stopped wearing their uniforms. But Orissa pales into insignificance before the intensity of the uprising in Chhattisgarh, which recorded 531 incidents and 413 deaths in 2007. The Maoists have a single rallying cry: “Development projects are taking away our land and our traditional rights. We will not allow them to proceed.” They are succeeding.”’ Manjeet Kriplani echoes similar sentiments in his article, ”In India, Death to Global Business. How a violent – and spreading – Maoist insurgency threatens the country’s runaway growth” in the American journal ‘Businenessweek’: “On the night of April 24, a group of 300 men and women armed with bows and arrows and sickles and led by gun-wielding commanders emerged swiftly and silently from the dense forest in India’s Chhattisgarh state. The guerillas descended on an iron ore processing plant owned by Essar Steel, one of India’s biggest companies. There the attackers torched the heavy machinery on the site, plus 53 buses and trucks. Press reports say they also left a note: Stop shipping local resources out of the state, or else!….. India has lots of unmined iron ore and coal – the essential ingredients of steel and electric power. Anxious to revive their moribund economies, the poor but resource rich states of eastern India have given mining and land rights to Indian and multinational companies. Yet these deposits lie mostly in territory where the Naxals operate. Chhattisgarh, a state in eastern India across from Mumbai and a hotbed of activity, has 23% of India’s iron ore deposits and abundant coal. It has signed memoranda of understanding and other agreements worth billions with Tata Steel and Arcelor Mittal, De Beers Consolidated Mines, BHP Hilton and Rio Tinto. Other states have cut similar deals. And US companies like Caterpillar want to sell mining equipment to the mining companies now digging in eastern India….” The gravest displacement of our time – an imperialist military strategy The following excerpt of the letter written by a group of environmentalists, scholars and activists to Chief Minister Raman Singh in early 2008 regarding the implementation of the Forest Rights Act in the state describes the extent and gravity of the forced displacement that was caused by Salwa Judum: “However, we are particularly concerned about the rights of those villagers in Dantewada and Bijapur districts who have been compelled to leave their villages due to the ongoing Salwa Judum campaign against naxalites. The total population of about 1200 villages in the two districts is 7.19 lakhs, of which 78.5% is tribal. About 50% of these villages, with an approximate population of 3.5 lakhs, is currently displaced from their villages. While about 47,000 are living in roadside camps set up by the state government, another 40,000 or so have fled to the forest areas of Andhra Pradesh to escape the ongoing violence between Salwa Judum and naxalites. The whereabouts of the remaining 2,63,000 villagers from the abandoned villages is unknown. In at least 644 abandoned villages in the two districts, no gram sabha meetings required under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act for initiating the process of recognition of rights can be organised under present circumstances. At a meeting organised by the Department of Tribal Welfare of Andhra Pradesh, it was decided that the Gutti Koyas who have sought shelter in AP’s forests from the naxal -Salwa Judam violence in Chhattisgarh will not be eligible for recognition of land and forest rights in Andhra. However, due to being displaced from their own villages, they will not be able to claim their rights even in their original villages in Chhattisgarh. Their being deprived of rights in both Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh will be a terrible subversion of justice. Consequently, we appeal to you to suspend implementation of the Act in the affected areas while facilitating speedy return of the villagers to their own villages. In the meantime, no land should be allocated to outsiders and no leases or prospecting licenses for minor minerals should be given in these villages as under PESA. These also require Gram Sabha permission, which is not possible under present circumstances. Yours sincerely, Madhu Sarin, Environmentalist and Scholar; Nagaraj Adve, People’s Union for Democratic Rights; Rohit Jain, Society for Rural, Urban and Tribal Initiative; C.R.Bijoy, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (Tamil Nadu & Pondicherry); Naga Peoples’ Movement for Human Rights; Shankar Gopalakrishnan, Campaign for Survival and Dignity; Gautam Kumar Bandyopadhyay, People’s Alliance for Livelihood Rights, Chhattisgarh; Dr. Nandini Sundar, Delhi University; Xavier Manjooran, Adivasi Mahasabha; Sharachchandra Lele, Senior Fellow & Coordinator, Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Environment & Development; V.S.Roy David, National Convener, National Adivasi Alliance, Kodagu 571234, Karnataka; Tribal Association for Fifth Schedule Campaign (TAFSC), Tamil Nadu; Shubhranshu Choudhary, Journalist; Professor Virginius Xaxa, Delhi University; Kundan Kumar, Phd Scholar; Dr Urmila Pingle, Anthropologist; Soma KP, gender and women’s rights activist, New Delhi; Erica Rustom; Ville-Veikko Hirvelä; Rajesh R; James Pochury; Felix Padel; Manshi Asher, independent researcher, Himachal Pradesh; Malini Kalyanivala; Rishu Garg; Rajesh, Nange Paon Satyagraha, Chhattisgarh; Renji George Joseph, Alliance for Holistic and Sustainable Development of Communities.” The fact that about 644 villages, some estimates put it even higher at around 700 villages, were emptied out and a population of about 3.5 lakhs had been displaced from the Bijapur and Dantewada districts at the heyday of the Salwa Judum operations is undisputed. The Government would like us to believe that this happened voluntarily because all these adivasis fled from Naxalite violence. The Salwa Judum camps, 24 in number were, according to them, set up to shelter those fleeing from such violence. Time and again surveys of the camps have shown otherwise, that people were usually brought to the camps forcibly or against their will and often brought back if they tried to escape. Besides plain arithmetic shows that, even if we are to believe this, there were 47,000 in the government camps which accounts for only 13% of the displaced population. 75% of that displaced population, or about 2.6 lakhs, chose not to go to the camps, and preferred to live in and out of the jungle, even it meant being treated as outlaws. The theory that such a huge and absolute displacement could have occurred spontaneously, is on the very face of it untenable. Let us look at the following facts: That ground clearing for mining and other companies was an important motive and in fact provided the driving force is clear from the MOUs with Tata, Essar, Texas Power Generation, Arcelor Mittal, BHP Biiton, DeBeers, Rio Tinto, Godavari Ispat, Prakash Industries etc and the around 96 mining leases with various companies in the Bailadila area. A bare perusal of the MOUs show that they were being practically handed out high quality iron ore deposits, coal blocks, water from the Indravati river etc. Apart from this, a large number of mining and prospecting licenses were also distributed (sold?) to come into effect if “all went well”, which remain undisclosed to this day. The corporate vested interest is also apparent from the fact that it was the Essar company that provided funds for setting up of the first Salwa Judum camps. It is reported that a foreign company called “Crest” has been given a contract to survey mineral deposits in the South Bastar, Dantewada and Bijapur districts. This company had said that it could undertake this mammoth survey only once the land was cleared. It is now also widely recognised that the ground clearing operation that was attempted to be carried out through Salwa Judum is a military strategy referred to as “strategic hamletting”. This involves clearing out villages and bringing them to roadside camps. This strategy was used by the Americans in Vietnam and the Indian State in Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, and Manipur. In Bastar this strategy has been closely overseen by the Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College, Kanker headed by Retd. Brigadier BK Ponwar. Brigadier Ponwar earlier headed the Warrangte Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School of the Indian Army at Mizoram. In the year 2006 left political parties as also the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha had protested against the statements of two officers of the American Consulate – one heading its Commerce Wing and the other a Regional Security Advisor, who had visited Kanker and Raipur and offered the Chief Minister American assistance in dealing with the state’s insurgency problem. We had condemned this as undue interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation. A few months ago I came to know that the current Chief of Economic and Political Affairs – Michael Neville and a Regional Security Officer – William Inman had visited Kanker and Raipur again. As an advocate familiar with Dr Binayak Sen’s case I had been requested to brief these officers by a staff member of their Mumbai Consulate. I had declined stating that I believed that human rights could not be separated from the policies of globalization and militarization which their country was supporting. It is pertinent that putting Indian Maoists on the American terror list, gives a handle to the Americans to interfere in the affairs of our country ostensibly for protecting American interests (read companies!). The third factor is the heavy military deployment – 19 battalions of CRPFand 2 Naga and Mizo IRB battalions – which were used with ruthlessness to commit all manner of barbarities to cow the adivasi people into submission. The presence of the Salwa Judum, who also no doubt used brutal force themselves, added a factor of unaccountability and spontaneity. Their role was also as informers and guides. In the past three years the incidents of such barbarism have appeared many times in the press, only to be quickly covered up. Some brave journalists notably Shubranshu Choudhary in his column “Basi Ma Uphan” in the evening daily paper Chhattisgarh has reported scores of such cases. We are giving here only a few instances;- On 13th March 2007 when the Naga Batallion and the Salwa Judum entered the Nendra village of Gaganpali panchayat, everyone ran away. But the children of the village were bathing at a hand pump. When the Naga jawans could not find anyone else in the village they shot these 11 children between the ages of 2 and 16 and one young man dead. We are giving their names not because it would make a difference to the reader but to remind them that 12 is not is a statistic but represents human beings (their ages are in brackets) – Soyam Raju (2), Madvi Ganga (5), Midium Nagaiyya (5), Podium Adma (7), Vetti Raju (9), Vanjam Raja (11), Soyam Raju (12), Sodi Adma (12), Madkam Aite (13), Madkam Budraiyya (14), Soyam Rama (16), Soyam Narya (20). 280 persons of Gangrajpadu village were taken by the Salwa Judum to the camp, but 175 of them were murdered, filled in sacking and thrown in the river, because they were protesting against going to the camp. A CRPF jawan of the 119 Batallion, G company told a journalist that they had been given orders that if they saw anyone in those villages after 15 March 2007, he/she would be a Naxalite and if he ran away we could shoot them. On 7th April 2007 a jawan of the Chhattisgarh Armed Force told a journalist that he had been posted there since the 15th of January 2007 and since then his unit alone had killed at least 60 persons. He said that as soon as they would reach a village with the Salwa Judum, people would start running. “We cannot understand the language of the adivasis here. Whoever we could catch, we would kill like a chicken or a goat, on the say so of the Salwa Judum. All this is happening because of our orders from above, and I am very unhappy about it.” The other significant aspect of this strategy was the outlawing and cordoning off of those adivasi people who refused to come to the camps, the total withdrawal of health services, ration shops and local markets. In other words starving out or “sanctions”. This is described in the following excerpts from news items: “Because of Judum the Haat markets were closed down. In the Naxal strongehold areas of the Konta area, after the start of Salwa Judum, the weekly markets had closed down, then the Naxals had started holding a market at Gachanpalli for their so-called people. After the attack of the force (paramilitary) on this market, the Naxalites have changed the venue of the market. The weekly markets are the most important part of a forest products based economy. It is from these markets that Naxalites also get the articles for their daily needs. After the start of the Salwa Judum campaign in 2004 (sic) the villages around the main centers were depopulated. The markets of these centers were also closed down and the economy of South Bastar crumbled. In the interior areas where the Naxals had a stronger base, the villagers left their villages and shifted to the mountains and jungles. Owing to this problem, the markets of Jagargunda, Bhejji, Basaguda, Golapalli, Kankerlanka etc. were closed down. Markets that were operating in the interior like Bhejji were brought to the roadside. The villagers who did not join Salwa Judum were debarred from coming to these market places on the roadsides. The villagers who came to the markets carrying mahua, imli, tora and other forest products began to be victimized as Naxals. Looking to this problem the Naxals started a new market in Gachanpalli. The traders of Cherla, Andhra Pradesh used to come in bullock carts with their wares. The Naxalites had directed that essential items be provided at reasonable prices. But the news of this reached the Salwa Judum supporters of Dornapal. So much forest produce used to come into the market, that the traders couldn’t transport all of it back.” Nai Dunia, 3rd January, 2009. “The Story of the Other Side of the Indravati ……….Quite a few people were already sitting there (in Village Niram) when we arrived. The people respectfully asked us to be seated. When we asked them about the facilities provided by the government they told us that upto two years ago the school and anganwadi centres were functioning here, though not regularly. Similarly the heath workers also used to come sometimes, so at least we and our children could get some kind of relief. But as soon as Salwa Judum started, all these facilities were stopped by the government. The villagers said they couldn’t understand why all these facilities were stopped by the government. Whereas no one had ever objected to their functioning. The villagers said that when Salwa Judum started, the entire populations of the villages of Chinger, Ehkeli,Satwa, Bangoli, etc. were forcibly taken away by the Salwa Judum leaders and the force (paramilitary). But we thought that if we go away, we would neither be able to do our farming nor collect forest produce which is the basic source of our livelihood. All of us will simply die of starvation there. The peasants also stated that there are facing a shortage of grain, salt, oil, chillies, clothes etc, because if they cross the river and go to the Geedam or Tumnar market, the Salwa Judum and force catch them and beat them up badly and take them and throw them in the camp or else murder them. So they don’t go to the market at all. If they require these necessities of life they go walking to another market 80 km away, they have to spend three days doing so.” Shubranshu Choudhari, 11.6.2007, ‘Chhattisgarh’ Like everything else, “Counter-Insurgency” has also become an industry in Chhattisgarh. Crores of rupees come in for defence expenditure and security costs. Huge undisclosed budgets exist for this purpose. And allegations of siphoning off are traded publically. (Even otherwise, out of the 1654 crores sanctioned for modernization of the police force by the Central government for the 13 Naxal affected states, only 2 to 13% have been used for improving weaponry. The lion’s share has gone into building bungalows and offices!) Besides, running the Salwa Judum camps itself is a lucrative proposition for the contractors and Judum leaders, many of whom have built houses and purchased vehicles in this period. From makeshift tents, tin roof structures have been constructed in the camps. All government schemes have been transferred there from the villages. Ration shops, anganwadis, schools, hostels, literacy and health missions…..all funds designated for the villages now come to the camps. Foodstuffs, medicines, relief materials including those sent by international agencies, intended for lakhs of people are claimed to be distributed to a few thousands. And even those are distributed on paper, for now the majority of people, having neither employment nor food have run away. No wonder that the journalists who were trying to expose this scam were beaten up by Salwa Judum goons in the police station. The following news item gives us an idea: “Patwari suspended in rice case. The administration has finally taken stern action in the case of blackmarketeering of rice brought for distribution to the inmates of the Salwa Judum Relief camps, and suspended the Patwari of Dornapal…. On the one hand various kinds of questions are being raised against Salwa Judum by NGOs and political parties, on the other this kind of incident raises doubts about the functioning of the administration. On 15 December the police had raided and seized 100 sacks of rice intended for the inmates of the Dornapal Relief Camp which had been kept for backmarketing in the house of Md Ahmed at Nadi Road. He was found prima facie to be guilty. There is consternation among the employees at this action taken for the first time since the start of the Salwa Judum. Complaints of this nature had been made several times earlier in the Salwa Judum camps. Such irregularities are not a new thing. There has been blackmarketing of all materials which come here for the past two years……Most of the camp inmates have gone back to their respective villages, but despite this the materials are shown to be distributed on the basis on the old figures. If the administration carries out an impartial enquiry, several startling facts will be uncovered.” Haribhoomi, 19/12/2008 This corruption has been acknowledged at the highest levels. Once the present DGP Vishwaranjan was asked to comment on the statement made by the outgoing security advisor to the government of Chhattisgarh – KPS Gill that the police of Chhattisgarh was so corrupt that the police officers posted at Bastar extort bribes for transfers and postings from jawans. He replied,” Had I been there I would have asked how is it that in Punjab, where you finished off terrorism so efficiently, 3/4ths of the officers have houses in England and America, though they have no relatives there?” It might appear that the DGP is exposing corruption very frankly. But on studying his statement more closely we realise that its real meaning is “Gill Sahab, better not speak too much about corruption, if you do, we can expose you as well!” But the issue of graver concern is that the American state has a powerful influence over the top echelons of the police today. This is even more so for Chhattisgarh, from where police officers are regularly sent to America for training. In the Punjab period, officers did not make frequent trips abroad, as they are doing today, yet many houses got built. How many houses are being built now is anybody’s guess! In his statement of 6th May 2008 in the daily ‘Deshbandhu’, Mr Vishwaranjan also admits, “In the Bijapur-Dantewada areas, they (the Naxalites) started raking up the old discontent of the adivasis. Actually adivasis consider the jungle to be their own, they don’t accept that it belongs to the government. In 1910 a revolt took place against the local raja because he tried to implement the Forest Act. He had to call in the British army for help. Ever since then this discontent has taken root. Later on the National Forest Act was implemented. The adivasis could not emotionally accept this.” Recently DGP Vishwaranjan stated that there are at present about 10,000 hard core Maoists and 40,000 people’s militia in Dantewada out of which 15,000 are women. In other words we are back to the magic figure of 50,000 given by DGP Rathore before Salwa Judum started. In that case, what has been achieved by the past 3 years of forcible displacement, detention of thousands in camps, and hundreds of killings? “The Story of a Village” What has Salwa Judum meant for the adivasi people? This is poignantly described in the following narrative of the speech given by an adivasi in a meeting organised at New Delhi by the “Citizens for Peace and Justice in Chhattisgarh”: “After some hesitation he (Chamru) started speaking, ”It was in the December of 2005, the Sarpanch of Mirtur sent a letter to our village (Vechapal). In that it was written that now in Bastar some man-eating people are coming, so if we want to save ourselves from them we should go to the Mirtur camp. The adivasi translating said that man-eating people meant Nagas. Chamru continued, ”We got scared. We got together and decided that first all the men would go and stay in the camp and then we would decide what to do afterwards. In the Mirtur camp there were some old Sangham members who had now become SPOs. Every morning they would first beat us. They would say, “When we went to these peoples’ village with the Naxalites, they had fed us food”. After this they used to take us to other villages and tell us to set fire to houses in those villages. After some days some people of our village ran away from the camp. Even then most of the people used to stay in the camps in the night but mostly come back home in the day time. To scare those people who had run away from the camp, 8 days later, the Salwa Judum and the police went to our village. The others ran away, but Joga Aayami fell into their hands and the Salwa Judum and police together killed him. They took away the 17 year-old daughter Rukni of Sannu Oyami. As far as we know, Rukni is still imprisoned in Jagdalpur jail today. After staying in the camp for two or three months, all of us from our village decided one day that we should run away. In February-March we ran away from the camp and came back to our village. After this Salwa Judum started coming to our village regularly. As soon as they came, we would run away to the jungle. After our running away they set fire to 60-70 houses in our village and took our cattle away. One day in April when I had gone to pick mahua, suddenly the Salwa Judum people came there. I hid behind a tree and they caught hold of 4 women who were picking mahua. They raped the 16 year old daughter Kumari of Sannu Oyami and the 27 year old wife Kamli of Bande Kadti in front of my eyes. I kept watching from behind the tree. They let the two older ladies go. After that they made the young girls wear Naxal uniforms, which they had brought with them. They cut their hair, put a gun on their shoulder and took them away with them. These two girls are still in Jagdalpur jail accused in Naxalite cases. We have already paid 12,000 to the lawyer but he says he can only get them out if we give him 20,000 more. After that we started living in the jungle only, and Salwa Judum started coming very frequently to our village. Each time we would run away, but somebody or the other would get caught. In this way six people of our village have got caught…..Two of them were father and son, They were caught together when they were cutting wood. They were hacked to death and thrown in the river….. None of these 6 was a Sangham member. The Salwa Judum people have burnt my house three times till now. Now there is not a single house in the village which has not been burnt. There are only walls left in the village. Whenever we make a house they come and burn it. This has happened about 10 times. Now we make houses of plastic sheets and are living in the jungle. Jaganath (32), son of Aytu from our village, used to tell people to go the camp and we suspect that he used to spy about our village to the SPOs. The dadas (Naxalites) came to know about this and one day during this period the dadas killed him. There was a school in our village. Now the administration has transferred the school to the Mirtur camp. Not a single person from our village stays in the camp now. That’s why no child of our village goes to school. There is no hospital in our village. We used to go to Mirtur for the market and hospital but now we cannot go to Mirtur for fear of the Salwa Judum. Now we only send old ladies and children to the market to buy salt and oil. They have to walk one full day and after that spend the night somewhere to reach the market in the morning.” Chamru requested me not to write the name of that market. ”Earlier in our village there were 5 Sangham members and the dadas (Naxals) used to come from time to time. They used to take meetings and tell us to do agriculture well and not drink. They never did any harm to us, Sahab”. Chamru told me that this is not only the story of his village. The neighbouring villages like Timenar, Hurepal, Phoolgatta, Dorguda, Kondapal, Pittepal, Neelavaya, Madpal, Indri, Kokur, Tamud, Orvada, Paralnar, Kudalka, Peddapal…in all these villages the story is more or less the same. All of them are living in the jungle. The people of all these villages cannot come out and neither can anyone except Salwa Judum and the police come to our villages. There was no one from the dalam in our village earlier, now one has joined. From my neighbouring villages, 15-20 from some and 30-40 from others have joined the dalam. Before Salwa Judum there were only 1-2 persons from these villages in the dalam.” Chamru also told the names of the villages where all the youth had gone with the Naxalites but he requested me not to write the names of those villages for reasons of security. Chamru can be called a Naxalite. This meeting can be called Naxalite sponsored. But when Chamru was speaking there was pin drop silence in the whole hall and I saw tears in the eyes of many people sitting in the chairs around me. The population of those 644 villages like Vechapal is about three and a half lakhs. According to government statistics about 50 thousand of them are in camps and the remaining 3 lakhs like Chamru have gone closer to the Naxalites. This is the success of Salwa Judum” Shubranshu Choudhari,14.9.2007, “Chhattisgarh” Every day the newspapers of Chhattisgarh carry disturbing news of killings, most of these are attributed to Maoists. As peace-loving people, far removed from the villages of Bastar, we shudder on reading these. We wish that there were some solution to end this seemingly endless cycle of violence and counter-violence. But we must remember that it is difficult to find the stories of the “Chamrus” in those reports. We have to read between the lines. If the newspaper says “commanders were felled” and shows a photograph of several young men in lungis what does it mean? If we are told the Maoists ruthlessly murdered “a villager” who also was an SPO what does that mean? And if we are told nothing at all what does that mean? Though we are often told that “the Maoists threw pamphlets”, it is rarely that a statement of the CPI(Maoist) finds its way to the press, and if so to confirm its authenticity. On 22.12.2007 a statement was published in the name of Gudsa Usendi, Spokesperson of the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee in the Daily Chhattisgarh in response to an article of journalist Asha Shukla. This is how it concludes: “Whatever is being broadcast in the TV channels and newspapers is almost all one-sided. If we make only this storm of one-sided propaganda our source of information we shall make serious mistakes. Ashaji has rightly said that our Chhattisgarh is looked upon as a backward region, otherwise people would have shown the same interest in exposing the frightening and most brutal violence which is going on in the name of Salwa Judum as they have in exposing the Gujarat riots or the killings in Nandigram. Without writing or speaking anything about these women (rape victims described earlier in the article), and hundreds of other men and women, or even trying to find out about them, to try to blame us, or abuse us in very emotionally and literary style as Ashaji has done, shows only dishonesty towards this problem……. Here on the one hand the violence of the Salwa Judum is on…… On the other hand is the retaliatory violence on behalf of a historically defeated people who have been struggling for their water, land and forest for the past 27 years. It is the violence of those who have nothing left to lose. Everything has already been looted from them. ……..They have only two ways left: to surrender and live like slaves in the “relief camps” or to resist even at the cost of their life. I am not trying to give an argument to justify our violence, I am only repeating that the people were forced to make this choice. Sitting in Delhi or Raipur or even remaining confined to the roads of Bastar and shouting “you are killing innocent and helpless people” is very easy, but to touch the hearts and feel the pain of those whose tears have dried up is very difficult. Finally I want to say that in these last two and a half years if despite this barbaric repression there are still people alive in south and West Bastar it is only and only because of our resistance struggle. If our party had not led this people’s resistance history would perhaps not forgiven us. You may callus violent or abuse us, but this is the reality and it is our conviction that history will vindicate us.” Knocking on the doors of the democratic state – do the adivasis of Bastar have any civil liberties? The silence about Bastar is not “natural”. There are many brave journalists, lawyers, social activists in Bastar and Chhattigarh. And many of them have been trying to speak. But journalists have been harassed, beaten, arrested; their homes and jobs taken away from them. False cases, transfers, income tax raids, defamation – the state has a myriad ways to silence social activists. Even a lawyer, Shri Girjuram Kashyap, who was preparing affidavits of villagers against the fake gram sabhas at Lohandiguda was picked up. The politically motivated and criminal incarceration of Dr Binayak Sen – which continues even after 19 months despite the lack of legally admissible evidence and the widespread protest, nationally and internationally – is also to “teach a lesson” and brutally enforce this silence. Salwa Judum began in June 2005, and by December the blood had start trickling out from under “the wall of silence” – the hushed reports of repeated attacks on villages under massive paramilitary cover, the rounding up of entire villages into camps – houses razed to the ground, meager belongings looted, crops ruined and livestock slaughtered, hundreds of ostensible “Sanghams” killed, and all those who refused to come to the camps and preferred to flee to the jungles labelled ‘Maoists’. It was Dr Binayak Sen who took the first brave step of organising a joint All-India fact-finding team of human rights organizations to investigate these disturbing rumours. The team was obstructed, harassed and threatened, but it nevertheless let the nation know what was happening in Dantewada. The report was aptly entitled “When the State makes War on its People”. After this many fact finding teams notably the Independent Citizens Initiative, various governmental commissions such as the National Commision of Women, international human rights organizations like the International Association of Peoples Lawyers and Human Rights Watch, journalists’ and doctors’ associations (Reporters Without Borders and Jan Swasthya Abhiyan), and teams of various political parties like those of the CPI and the Congress have also repeatedly documented atrocities, lawlessness, forcible displacement, pitiful conditions in camps, cases of sexual harassment etc. Letter petitions of the Vanvasi Chetana Ashram have been taken up suo moto by the Chhattisgarh High Court, and the Forum for Fact Finding and Documentation has filed numerous petitions before the State Human Rights Commission. Finally two petitions questioning the legitimacy and violent modus operandi of Salwa Judum have been taken into cognizance by our apex judicial forum – the Supreme Court – one filed by Nandini Sundar, Ramchandra Guha & EAS Sharma, and the other by Kartam Joga, Manish Kunjam and other residents of Dantewada belonging to the Adivasi Mahasabha. What has been the response of our democratic institutions? Take the Ponjer fake encounter case. Not only the CPI, the Forum for Factfinding and Documentation, and the PUCL, but even a 5 member team of Congress MPs including Moolchand Meena and Jamuna Devi had conducted an investigation and declared that 12 innocent villagers had been murdered by the police in March 2007. 8 bodies were exhumed and a magisterial enquiry was ordered. But the police finally registered an FIR in the name of “unknown uniformed persons.” The BJP MLA of Keshkal and Parliamentary Secretary Mahesh Baghel had gone public stating that the 79 persons who were paraded before the press in Raipur as surrendered Naxalites in January 2007, were innocent peasants. He had claimed that not only were they not even Sangham members, but most of them were BJP cadres and he knew them personally. But only a few of these persons could be released. Presumably the rest are still rotting in jail. The gang rape of an adivasi woman by the Mizo jawans had enraged the people of the Nakulnar area in February 2007, and they continuously agitated under the leadership of the Adivasi Mahasabha for the punishment of the jawans and the withdrawal of the Mizo batallion. Those jawans had also threatened and beaten the local adivasi police who had tried to register a case. Thanedar Khalko told an ETV reporter that,”The Mizo jawans beat up anybody. If they are not withdrawn from here, the situation can become explosive. We are only 7 and they are 117. We are helpless before them.” The Dantewada police however colluded to save these jawans. The woman was made to identify the rapists in an identification parade of Mizos with identical Mongoloid features, which was well nigh impossible for her. Apart from this denial and cover-up mode, the other official response has been offensive – to declare every person who opposes the brutalities of Salwa Judum as a “Naxalite supporter”. The extreme example of this was when, in November 2007, the Dantewada collector KR Pisda wrote to the State Government that the Y category security given to Congress MLA Kawasi Lakhma be withdrawn as he was a “Naxalite spokesperson.” The “proof” given for this was, “He has not issued any statement opposing Naxalites. He has not participated in the Salwa Judum. In fact he has demanded that it should be stopped.” Even in the petitions in the Supreme Court, the reply of the Chhattisgarh government was that all the petitioners are “Naxalite supporters!” After the recent elections, as usual, an adivasi MLA, this time Nankiram Kanwar has been adorned with the crown of thorns, namely the post of home minister. It is pertinent that in the previous cabinet he had been Forest Minister, which ministry was taken away from him when he had tried to prosecute the Jindal and Sterlite companies for their illegal encroachment on forest land and felling of thousands of trees. This time he has immediately towed the line. After being made home minister, Mr Kanwar’s first visit was to the RSS office, after which he told the press that all those who oppose Salwa Judum are “anti adivasi”, “Naxalite supporters” and shall be “dealt with sternly.” In which case the list of Naxal supporters is rather daunting – Sandeep Pandey, Justice Srikrishna, EAS Sharma, Nandini Sundar, BD Sharma, D.Raja, Medha Patkar, Kanak Tiwari, D. Bandhopadhyay, Hira Singh Markam and of course the inimitable Ajit Jogi. The latest addition is our Union Home Minister P.Chidambaram who stated during question hour in Rajya Sabha on 16 December 2008 that “We are not in favour of non-state actors taking law enforcement in their hands,” The CMM, which has been consistently agitating for the release of Dr. Binayak Sen, much-loved doctor of the miners and industrial workers of Chhattisgarh, has equally been a strong opponent of the brutal and forcible displacement in Bastar taking place in the name of Salwa Judum and has repeatedly demonstrated against it, for it believes that: ”Injustice anywhere is a threat to Justice everywhere”. No wonder that CMM is therefore very much also in the “firing line”, as DGP Vishwaranjan made clear by his veiled threat that “Niyogi was the first Naxalite.” Chief Minister Raman Singh and DGP Vishwaranjan are literally crowing over the results of the recent assembly elections of November 2008 in Bastar and interpreting them as a mandate in support of Salwa Judum. Is it so? Most of the times nowadays elections are not fought on issues, how else can one explain campaigns using naïve if not outright dumb star celebrities and results determined by crates of liquor. In Chhattisgarh, the burning issues faced by a region reeling under imperialist onslaught were totally absent from the electoral discourse. What to say of poor contract labour or peasants facing displacement, even the issue of the small industrialists did not figure in the manifestos of the “mainstream” political parties. They were only vying with each other in throwing crumbs to the people from the high table of loot – luring them with ‘three rupee rice’, ‘two rupee rice’, and finally even ‘one rupee rice’! But any one who visited the Dantewada or Konta constituencies in the buildup to the elections could see that the election there was being fought like a referendum on Salwa Judum and land acquisition for companies. I quote from the newspaper Nai Dunia of 7/11/2008: “Shri Karma has not been able to start his campaign in the Naxal stronghold areas of Katekalyan and Kuakonda, even the BJP candidate Bhimram Mandavi has not plucked up the courage to go there. On the contrary, under the banner of the Adivasi Mahasabha, Shri Kunjam has been successful in reaching his message. He is the national President of the Adivasi Mahasabha and by going to jail in the matter of giving land to the Tata industrial group, he has earned considerable sympathy. Famed as “Bastar Tiger”, Mahendra Karma, though he is an adivasi, is considered a leader of the non-adivasis. But some incidents of the recent past have spoiled this image of his. Similarly his efforts to persuade the adivasis of Bhansi and Dhurli to give their lands to the Essar industrial group may cost him dear.” The defeat of the powerful sitting MLA Mahendra Karma does of course signal the unpopularity of the Salwa Judum he headed and also the land acquisitions of Tata and Essar which he personally tried to push through. And this was despite not only muscle power but even money power. He was caught on camera bribing an adivasi woman, and had quickly signalled to a man carrying a sack of cash to scoot! But how then, did the BJP candidate, who was nowhere in the running, defeat such an obviously popular candidate as Manish Kunjam? The Citizens for Peace and Justice in Chhattisgarh had expressed apprehensions in their letter to the Election Commission of India regarding electoral rolls being prepared in camps and therefore the possibility of fraudulent voting: “According to recent media reports Government of Chhattisgarh claims that more than 57,000 people are living in these camps and their names are getting included in the electoral rolls for the camps. As per reports we have received from local civil society members and fact findings done by CPJC members, majority of people who were living in these relief camps have gone back to their homes in their respective villages. According to our information the number of residents in camps is not more than 10,000. We are also aware of several other discrepancies existing in the preparation of Electoral rolls: many names in from the voter’s list have been dropped and in some cases names of children aged 13-16 have been included in the names. Moreover, names of several people who have fled to Andhra Pradesh and other neighbouring states have been added or maintained in the electoral rolls of Salwa Judum camps when they never lived there. We are afraid that this will inevitably result in fraud voting while the citizens themselves are deprived of their right to vote. According to media reports Communist Party of India has also raised their objection with you on similar points. They have informed that 50 polling booths in Bijapur and 92 polling booths in Dantewada have not been inspected by Election Commission. They feel the inspection staff have refused to do their duty, probably due to threats from Salwa Judum.” Recently Advocate Pratap Narayan Agrawal preferred a letter petition in the High Court of Chhattisgarh alleging that the election was neither free nor fair, “9.From the preparation of voters’ list, photo-identity card and polling in booth is a story of abuse of power and connivance of public servants with money-muscle- mafia candidates. The election commission abused its’ power in firstly declaring that in absence of photo-identity- card the voters will be allowed to cast their votes if they have any of the other 29 proof of their identity, but suddenly the election commission debarred the voters of Dantewada and Konta-Sukma constituency who had no voters’-identity card. The commission’s agency failed to update and issue voters’ identity-card to each of the Indian citizen voter. Thus, the conduct of election was neither free nor fair nor constitutional. 10. The commission failed to make arrangements for security of voters from naxals and other anti-law; is clear from the incident of voting thrice in village ” G O G U N D A ‘ in Konta-constituency. The fear and insecurity amongst voter is proofed by the fact that only 10 voters cast their vote against the roll of 711 voters. The election-party many a times did not go the booth and made false documents of voting. The election-machinery cared and busy only to protect the election-party, they did not care to secure the voters. Thus, the election in Konta, Dantewada, Kanker, Keshkal, Narayanpur constituency were neither free nor fair nor secure nor constitutionally achieved. 11. The very fact that Collector and District Returning officer with superintendent police Dantewada having reported against the election-observer; and the observer having reported against them for corrupt practices is a proof of conduct of illegal elections. 12. The very fact that the Chief Election Officer of Chhattisgarh election commission Dr.Alok Shukla reported of non-cooperation by Director General Police and his subordinates and the District Returning officers, is a proof of conduct of elections in unfair and unfree and illegal and insecure manner. 13. The very fact that Commissioner of Bastar Ganesh Shankar Mishra, Collector of Raipur Sonmani Bora and collector of Kanker Pisda were transferred for free and fair elections, indicates unfree and unfair involvement of public-servants. 14. The fact that many of the officers were not relieved from duty despite instructions of election commission and some of them relieved on my notice, is a proof of unfair and unfree and corrupt and abusive-power involvement of public servants in conduct of elections. None of the erring public-servant is punished is the prove of their criminal conspiracy with political parties” In fact, some poll parties and security parties have already been prosecuted for election malpractices by the Election Commission in Rajnandgaon and Kanker districts. 11 persons are in jail in Rajnandgaon pending trial. This poll party had never gone to the booth but had sat in the fields and pressed the EVM buttons, and “cast” 104% of the votes – all for the BJP! The Congress candidate from Bhanupratappur – Manturam Pawar has filed an election petition alleging that goons of the BJP candidate (now Minister) Vikram Usendi had terrorized and chased away all the voters at one of the booths and pressed the EVM buttons 504 times in favour of the BJP. There have been dozens of cases of more than 100% voting and even more where votes were cast only for the BJP. Besides when we recall that the votes in the camps could hardly have been cast freely and that votes of government servants were ostensibly “cast by post”, it is not difficult to understand how the BJP might have won. Recently the papers in Chhattisgarh were blazing headlines – “NHRC gives a clean chit to Salwa Judum”, referring to the enquiry made on the directions of the Supreme Court. Of course the NHRC had acted in a typical “police” fashion, traveled to villages in anti-land mine vehicles with SJ leaders and alleged perpetrators as translators and guides, and could not even protect the few villagers who were brave enough to depose before it. Yet the recommendatory chapter of its report begins by noting that the Salwa Judum movement has now lost its momentum, and suggests that efforts should be made to rehabilitate the remaining camp inmates. It recommends that village wise lists of missing persons be made, atrocities be investigated and villagers be encouraged to lodge FIRs, that all losses due to loot and arson be compensated irrespective of perpetrators (read “even if non-naxalites”), that paramilitary forces stop using school buildings, that corruption in camps be strictly checked, that security forces be trained to avoid human rights violations, that a more humane transfer policy be put in place to relieve them, and that rather than a security-centric approach efforts be made to address socio-economic deprivation. Dilute as they may be, could these recommendations, which are practically a vindication of the allegations of human rights groups, be described as a “clean chit”? Well, so thinks the Public Relations Department of the Government! And so that is the Truth (with a capital T) in current vogue in Chhattisgarh. In other words, after all that effort, we are back to square one. Not recognising the people’s brave resistance. Missing the forest for the trees. For the State in Chhattisgarh, there are no adivasi people, it only recognises “Maoists” or “victims of Naxal violence”. People have been speaking. But has anyone been listening? On 5 November 2007, about 2 lakh adivasis gathered at Jagdalpur in a rally organized under the aegis of the Adivasi Mahasabha. When we went as a team of the CMM we saw that at the venue – the huge Jadgalpur stadium – there was not a single matador, truck or bus. All the participants had come walking, some had left their villages 3-4 days before the event, carrying rice and their own fuel wood. Their slogans – “Stop Salwa Judum”, “Stop giving adivasi lands to companies”, “Down with Mahendra Karma.” Huge winding rallies poured into the city from all directions. We were surprised to see an Air Force plane hovering sinisterly overhead, making an airborne survey? A similar rally at Dantewada on 14 November 2006 had been denied permission by the Collector Dantewada in the name of a by-election taking place in the Bilaspur district more than 500 kilometres away! The High Court had struck down the order of the Collector and permitted the rally. Despite all-out efforts by the Salwa Judum leaders and the police and para-military to obstruct and threaten, the participants of the rally did arrive at Dantewada, 50,000 of them, to oppose the land acquisition by Tata and Essar, and to oppose the massive displacement of adivasis in the name of Salwa Judum. It is interesting that despite all the government support, Salwa Judum has never been able to muster such mobilisations. And that is not all. Six months ago hundreds of tribals had demonstrated at the district headquarters of Bijapur, protesting that CRPF jawans posted at a relief camp in the interior village of Cherpal had fired at camp residents, killing a two-year-old boy, Raju, and a woman, Ram Bai, 25. They had demanded the recall of CRPF from the village. And at Nakulnar…… At Bhansi……..At Kondagaon….. At Lohandiguda…….At Santoshpur…….At Singhavaram………. Yet unfortunately, for the civil society too, the adivasi people are only victims, “ground between two stones”, “caught in the crossfire”, “those whose only crime is to be neutral.” We have been appealing to the democratic institutions – the Executive headed by the Collector and the Governor in the Scheduled Areas; the Judiciary headed by the Chief Justices of the Supreme Court and High Court; the National and State Human Rights Commissions, and the special committees set up to monitor the status of the scheduled tribes and the scheduled areas; the national and local media; political parties of all hues. After many undaunted efforts, not to be belittled in the least, there has been a small stir. But small, far too small, in comparison with the dimensions of the human tragedy. But the NHRC is right about the fact that the Salwa Judum has lost its momentum. Now the operations are clearly police-CRPF-IRB operations. A large number of the “pakka” SJ recruits have been absorbed as “Special Police Officers” – the lowly paid (yet by adivasi standards getting a royal sum of Rs. 1500 a month) youth who serve as the spy network, guide the police parties in the jungles and literally form the physical shield around the CRPF in each of the thanas. Recently the DGP Mr. Vishwaranjan stated that more than 1500 SPOs were discharged on grounds of indiscipline (euphemism for atrocities). The SP of Dantewada candidly admitted to the press in November 2008 that 80% of the inmates of the camps have returned to their villages and the newspapers of 19 January 2009 state that 11,000 more returned enmasse. When one recalls that there are 19 battalions of CRPF, not to mention Naga and Mizo IRBs, in Bastar and Dantewada, today, and that these security forces have been treating all those who refused to come to the camps as “Naxalites” and in fact forcibly bringing them back if they ran away, how did this happen? How has Salwa Judum been pushed back? The live telecasts of happenings in Singur and Nandigram have shown us what happens when people of 11-12 villages refuse to part with their lands. Now multiply this by 50. Think of the enormity of it – 644 villages, 3.5 lakh adivasis. The government figures say 50,000 are in the camps. Human rights organizations say another 50,000 have fled to Andhra Pradesh. Let us add another 50,000 for good measure. Even so, our arithmetic has failed. Where have 2 lakh adivasis vanished? Obviously into the jungle. And therefore by the government logic – they are Maoists? It is these adivasis who have been declared outlaw, who are being cordoned off by the security forces, who are being deliberately starved of food and medicines by the withdrawal of health services and ration shops. These adivasis, whose crops are repeatedly burnt when they try to sow them in the abandoned villages. These adivasis who have to walk kilometers and kilometers to a local bazaar to avoid being “identified” as a Naxal by the Salwa Judum (or now the local SPO) and beaten, arrested or even killed. They who are swelling the overcrowded jails of Dantewada, Jagdalpur and Kanker, accused of “offences by unknown Maoists” – serving a sentence even before trial, for the word “bail” is unknown in the legal lexicon of Dantewada. Trials from which everyone knows they can only be acquitted for there are no witnesses, and no complainants, and most of time no co-accused either. But it is also these adivasis who have refused to go the camps, who have repeatedly tried to return to their villages, who have sown their crops knowing that they might be destroyed by the Salwa Judum and CRPF, who have also been fighting to save their fields, their homes, their villages. And yes, how can we deny it, they have resisted the Salwa Judum, the police, the CRPF physically with their traditional weapons. And again, it is undeniable, that the Maoists have supported them. It is these adivasi people who have bravely created the conditions for those held in virtual detention in the camps to return home. It is they who are refusing to hand over their lands, their forests, to the rich global mining interests who are waiting in the wings. It is they who have pushed back a brutal campaign like Salwa Judum. Can we refuse to recognise this brave resistance only because we may be ‘labelled’? Today’s imperialist onslaught is a desperate attempt to overcome crisis. And the masses of people refuse to be the sacrificial goat. The ferocious aggression of imperialist capital, especially from the US, has to be seen in the light of the economic crisis impending since the 1990’s, that has erupted now in 2008. This final economic meltdown has exploded many a myth about the illusory ‘free market economy’ and we are seeing the naked collusion between finance capital and their imperialist governments. The ‘free market’ is for the devastation of lakhs of peasants, and the ‘bail-outs and subsidies’ are for the big capital. Even the mainstream economists like Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman and many others have been demonstrating that, especially in the last decade, the US has been consuming vast resources at the expense of the developing countries such as China, India and Russia etc. This has been done largely through its unique position by way of issuing dollars to reduce its mega-deficit and making the poor countries pay for its consumerist extravaganza. According to a New York Times article, since 2001, the US debt has grown by $1.7 trillion. Foreigners financed 75 percent – about $1.3 trillion – of this, China alone bears one-fourth the burden. So, we see that the plight of the Indian peasants or that of the small industries is not a natural phenomenon, but a direct consequence of ruthless loot by the desperate imperialists. But with all this loot, they could only postpone the collapse of their economy, and finally by 2008, the crisis caught up with them. A word of caution. By economic analysis alone, without an all sided study of our times we can never get to the whole of the truth, more importantly to that truth, which guides us to work to change the wretched conditions of our world, beyond mere interpretations. If we carefully think over the whole sequence of the events, we can figure out that had George Bush succeeded in taming the Iraqi people in a time period of three to six months, then he could have proceeded to conquer Iran and could have got hold of vast oil resources cheaply. In that situation the imperialists could have postponed the crash for another decade. This is what they had calculated. The people of the oppressed world thought otherwise. At the cost of untold sufferings and sacrifices, the march of the armed might of US imperialism has been brought to a grinding halt. After Korea and Vietnam, the people of Iraq have shown that imperialism is indeed a paper tiger. The moral of the story is that we have to go beyond interpretation, work for change, come out and organize the struggle to defeat the plunderer imperialists. At this historic juncture of world wide economic crisis, what is the state of affairs in our country? What are the politicians of every major political party and the ruling bureaucrats doing? Of course they are working to save the country, to save the economy from the crisis. The country is – Tata, Ambani, Jindal, Jaiprakash, DLF, Indiabull, Essar, Birla, Holcim, Lafarge, ITC etc. etc. and the vast people are their subjects. More than 60,000 crores have been injected. More may be needed. After all the country has to be saved from the economic crisis. The crisis is of the demand side. So demand has to be boosted. Excise duty has been cut across the board. Mobikes are cheaper by 4000, cars by 20-40,000. Banks have been instructed to disburse loans to boost the consumer market. Come on citizens, the country has to be saved, the economy has to be saved, tighten your belts. How can they give bonus, there is an economic slowdown. Wages less than half the legal minimum? You should understand, it is a crisis. Everyone has to do their bit. The country is taking upon itself the burden of carrying package after package, the citizens should chip in with a bit of overtime and a bit of unemployment. And peasants, yesterday, you were to contribute your land for development, today to save the country from economic crisis. Are you not to be expected to make that contribution at the altar of country? You see, we are all one. The government of economists is leading us. We are in safe hands. Just a minute. The crisis is of the demand side. Then, can’t the demand be boosted by paying bonus to the workers, by paying full wages and even giving a raise, by providing employment to all with a living wage (and not a starvation wage as under NREGA)? Imagine the boost to the demand when 77% of our people earning less than Rs. 20 a day start earning a minimum wage of say Rs 100 a day? By constructing decent hospitals for the 80% of population that doesn’t have them? By providing for construction of houses with toilets for every family? To boost the demand and save the economy, isn’t it logical to have a moratorium on the constructions of malls and all other extravaganza before the whole population is provided with these essentials? Or is it that only when malls and flyovers are constructed, the demand for the steel and cement industries is boosted and when hospitals and houses and toilets are constructed, it is not? The logic of economics is absolutely clear in this matter. That in fact demand can only be boosted in this manner. But how can finance capital even allow you to think this, leave alone propose action on this line? Ah! There is this political side to our economy. And our economist rulers are the agents of the supreme imperialists. Indeed the whole ruling class, the politicians, the big bureaucrats! It has recently been reported in the mainstream media that the black money stashed away by this ruling class in Swiss Banks was Rs. 1300 crore in 1984, it increased to Rs. 28,000 crores in 1997 and this amount had soared to a whopping Rs. 72,80,000 crores by the end of 2006.This amount is hundred times more than the much worshipped FII investments in the Indian stock market. In its crisis-ridden state, imperialist capital has become ferocious, like a real tiger in its old age. It has been waging an all out attack on the lives and livelihood of people. The crisis-ridden imperialists and its pliant state have been particularly aggressive in carrying out land grab and easing out the peasants from their land, lives and livelihood at an unprecedented scale. Kalinganagar, Singur, Nandigram, Midnapur, Koelkaro, Netrahat, Raigarh, Jashpur, Posco in Jagatsingpur, Tata in Lohandiguda & Essar in Bhansi in Bastar, and so many other places in Chhattisgarh and all over India. Displacement under Salwa Judum, as relocation under military strategy is the one of the most brutal instances. Imperialists consider the Maoist forces to be the most serious obstacle in the way of unbridled exploitation in Bastar and many other adivasi areas. To fight them, the state does not hesitate to carry out genocidal campaigns among the adivasi peoples. But the adivasi people are refusing to quietly surrender their lands, forests and resources to the imperialist loot machine and are bringing it to a grinding halt. So the representatives of the US imperialists have to be frequently present to see if the state is doing enough to protect their “long term interests” in the mineral rich hinterland of India. This interference in the affairs of our country cannot be allowed. The dalaal political class should be exposed before the whole people. True, the foundation of capitalism is laid on clearing the indegenous population through genocides in many continents, on blood and sweat labour of African slaves, colonial exploitation and plunder of India and most of the world. But that was centuries ago. For progress even in 21st century, can human civilization allow such a path of development? Can the degradation of the earth and civilization be halted without doing away with the present system of obscene inequalities? And can that happen without the toiling and exploited people, the wretched of the earth, taking away from the so obviously degraded, imperialist masters of today’s world the command of politics, economy, culture? It is the call of the hour – support the resistance of the adivasis in the resource-rich areas, join hands to come out and organize the anti-displacement struggle at the national level. Surely, we shall defeat the plunderer imperialists. erican writer Eduardo Galeano says ” development develops inequality” but here in India. development develops inequality as well as displacement. it is estimated that after 1947 till today 6 crore people have been displaced because of this so-called development…..after 1990s it gained such a momentum, that have never seen before..now center of displacement is Bastar and Jharkhand.. political activist sudha bhardwaj gives a chilling details of this displacement and resultant resistance……Editor GRAVEST DISPLACEMENT…… BRAVEST RESISTANCE …… The Struggle of Adivasis of Bastar, Chhattisgarh Against Imperialist Corporate Landgrab. Sudha Bharadwaj “The rule of law does not do away with the unequal distribution of wealth and power but reinforces that inequality with the authority of law. It allocates wealth and poverty in such complicated and indirect ways as to leave the victim bewildered.” Howard Zinn Dedicated to the memory of Tapasi Malik,, Dula Mandal, Lakhiram Tuddu, Satyabhama ……….. Whose names we know, And the hundreds of adivasis of Bastar Whose names will remain unknown till we claim them. Why this essay? I don’t live in Bastar, and I am not an adivasi. But I have been active in the working class movement of Chhattisgarh for the past 22 years, a movement that became legendary under the charismatic leadership of Comrade Shankar Guha Niyogi. And I strongly feel that understanding what is happening in Bastar today is of the greatest significance not only to us in Chhattisgarh, but to all those who want to understand imperialist onslaught and corporate land grab, particularly in the resource-rich adivasi areas; for all those involved nationwide in the anti-displacement movement which is day on day becoming a fierce life-and-death struggle against all odds; and in fact for all of us in the peoples’ movements who are faced with the abysmally criminal failure of democratic institutions and shrinking democratic spaces on the one hand, and growing repression on the other. Justice Krishna Iyer, in a speech delivered in the memory of Com. Niyogi said that “he tried boldly and bravely to bring the Constitution to life for lakhs of miners and contract labourers”. Com. Niyogi was murdered on 28th September 1991 within a fortnight of his petitioning the highest constitutional authority of this land – the President of India. The industrialists convicted for his murder by the Sessions Court of Durg were acquitted by the High Court and Supreme Court. The thousands of workers of Bhilai, for whose cause he laid down his life, are still out of work, their cases pending in the High Court. The last essay he wrote, with an uncharacteristic urgency, was “Rajeev Gandhi Ki Hatya Kyon?” (“Why was Rajiv Gandhi murdered?”) in which he forcefully argued that Rajiv Gandhi, though himself of the “liberalization” paradigm, was considered to be moving too slowly and was eliminated to allow “those who wanted the dollar to move in fast” to have their way. Com. Niyogi predicted that unless there was a widespread debate and churning among the patriotic and democratic sections of the people, our country would become the “grazing ground of the multinationals”, for now “only those persons will occupy the seats of power, whom the multinationals favour”. At that time, in May 1991, his article seemed to many, to be exaggerated or the usual leftist conspiracy theory. Now we know, it was prophetic. This essay is part of that debate. In the numerous industrial areas across Chhattisgarh today, the very blood of young contract labourers is being sucked as they labour for 12-14 hours, for far less than minimum wages, without weekly holidays, and without safety or medical facility, to generate the enormous wealth of “Chhattisgarh Shining!” Unionizing them doesn’t only mean facing the goondas of the industrialists, risking the loss of precarious jobs, sustaining an uncompromising struggle against great odds, and developing a mature and bold leadership that can withstand both carrot and stick – though this is a tall enough order. It also means struggling against the serious imperialist onslaught against the people of Chhattisgarh. An onslaught where gigantic multinationals like Holcim and Lafarge are gobbling up the cement sector, they have already acquired ACC, Ambuja, and Raymond Cements. Taking advantage of rich limestone deposits, they are manufacturing the cheapest cement in the world, earning superprofits and planning to set up new capacities. Between them and the big Indian cement manufacturers like Aditya Birla they have formed the “Chhattisgarh Cement Manufacturers Association” a cartel that has its office at a stones throw from Chief Minister Raman Singh’s residence – a proximity symbolic of their stranglehold influence over the state administration. These companies are blatantly violating well-established Indian labour standards that prohibit the use of contract labour in cement manufacture, and mandate that contract labour be paid at par with regular workers, i.e at the rate of the Cement Wage Board. (Holcim, for instance, has appealed against an Award obtained by our union to regularize 573 contract workers whose contracts were held to be sham and bogus.)They are refusing to abide by the State Rehabilitation Policy which prescribes permanent jobs for those displaced by their plants, and are in fact creating an explosive situation in the rural areas by employing outsiders in preference to the affected peasants. Under the leadership of the Pragatisheel Cement Shramik Sangh and the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (Mazdoor Karyakarta Committee) – workers, peasants and particularly women – have been militantly struggling and have had some success in enforcing minimum wages and getting some affected peasants employed in these factories. But we still need to forge a unity of all cement workers in Chhattisgarh, across union lines, to wage a serious struggle demanding that multinationals implement the law of the land. On the other hand, the local small and medium steel industry of Chhattisgarh is facing a severe crisis, hundreds of units – mini steel plants, sponge iron units, rolling mills – are closing down, and thousands of workers are facing the threat of retrenchment. This crisis is another facet of the imperialist onslaught. The best quality iron ore of Chhattisgarh is literally flowing out as slurry, day after day, to be shipped out to Japan costing it a mere Rs. 400 a tonne. The State government is only too keen to sign MOUs with the big corporate houses – Tata, Essar, Mittal, Jindal…. and to practically gift away the best deposits of iron ore as captive mines at a measly royalty of Rs. 50 a tonne. But the local industry is having to purchase iron ore at open market rates, which had touched upto Rs. 5800 per tonne recently. Along with our union the Jan Adharit Engineering Mazdoor Union, the CMM has been continuously protesting against these pro-imperialist policies in order to save local industry and jobs, and exhorting the local industrialists not to be “penny wise and pound foolish” in trying to make up the lakhs of losses on raw material costs by squeezing a few thousands out of the workers legal wages. But, increasingly it is becoming more clear to us that the factories are not the only battleground against imperialist and monopoly capital, the hardest struggles are in the countryside where these companies are zeroing in on mineral resources, and are engaged in a land grab on an unbelievable scale. Whether for coal blocks in Raigarh, or a power plant in Premnagar, cement plants in Tilda, or a large industrial area in Rajnandgaon, bauxite mining in Sarguja and Jashpur, sponge iron plants in Raipur or diamond mining in Devbhog. Peasants everywhere – particularly adivasis and dalits – are facing and resisting displacement – compromising weakly at some places, facing repression determinedly at others. 41 and now 65 more villages near Raipur are to be displaced for a glittering new capital region of Corporate Chhattisgarh; 9 villages for an army camp next to the new High Court premises close to Bilaspur; 7 villages for an air force base in Rajnandgaon. Not to mention displacement for a Tiger Reserve, Elephant Reserve, Wild life Sanctuaries etc. in Bilaspur, Jashpur and Dhamtari districts… The list is endless. CMM has been active in the anti-displacement movement – in opposing the demolition of urban bastis, particularly in the industrial areas where the lowly paid contract workers live; in organising the already displaced peasants around industrial establishments to demand jobs; and in playing a prominent role along with the Sanyukta Kisan Morcha in stalling the acquisition of 7 villages at Rajnandgaon for a Special Industrial Zone. It has expressed solidarity with the Raigarh Bachao Sangharsh Samiti which has been fighting the total domination of the Jindal group with its ‘private army’. A group notorious for land grabbing, brokering of material inputs for local small industry, rampant exploitation of workers and pollution of the air, soil and water of Raigarh district. A peasant woman Satyabhama had lost her life, ironically on the 26th of January 1998, when being force-fed to break the indefinite fast she had undertaken to save the waters of the Kelo river from pollution by Jindal. (In yet another example of the obscene hypocrisies that we now take for granted like Satyam winning the Golden Peacock Global Award for corporate governance, the Jindal Steel and Power Limited recently received the “Srishti Green Cube Award 2007 for Good Green Governance” from Sheela Dikshit, the Chief Minister of Delhi!) The CMM has also been an active participant in the anti-displacement front Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan, which was launched at Ranchi on 23rd March 2007, and which has been attempting to unite the people’s resistance to displacement countrywide. The struggle to bring the MOUs of Tata and Essar in Bastar and Dantewada into the public domain; the fake gramsabhas in Lohandiguda and Dhurli blocks conducted at gunpoint to obtain consent for land acquisition, and presided over by the Salwa Judum supremo and District Investment Promotion Board Chairman Mahendra Karma; the arrests of vocal villagers including when they were on their way to keep a scheduled appointment with the Governor; the slapping of cases under the National Security Act on activists of the Adivasi Mahasabh a; the FIRs that were finally lodged, after repeated complaints, against sundry dalals of Tata for the “fake compensations” given to the wrong persons and even in the name of the dead; these are events about which I and the CMM have had personal knowledge, and about which we have continuously raised our voice. CMM had organized torchlight processions in several industrial centres protesting against the arrest of Manish Kunjam and other leaders of the Adivasi Mahasabha on the eve of the gram sabhas organized in Lohandiguda and Bhansi to protest land acquisition. But I could only grasp the enormity of the information blackout – the silence, half truths and sheer lies – call it the “wall of silence”, that exists between Bastar and the rest of Chhattisgarh, when as an active member of the Chhattisgarh PUCL, I joined several fact finding teams to investigate into fake encounters. When we found out that the shiksha karmis and student killed in Gollapalli allegedly in “Naxalite cross fire” had actually been murdered by the police and SAF even after they had repeatedly asserted their identity; when the “dreaded Naxalites encountered” in Nayapara turned out to be adivasis who had returned to their ancestoral village in search of work; when the theory of “accidental firing because of hidden Naxalites” in the Cherpal Salwa Judum camp was boldly rubbished by the villagers in the camp who were furious at the killing of a woman and a small baby by a trigger happy CRPF jawan. In the media we repeatedly saw a total silence about ordinary people on the one hand, and cymbal-clashing war-cries against Maoists, always pictured as AK-47 toting with sinisterly covered faces, on the other. Each time we uncovered the truth, which, mind you, was absolutely self-evident to the local people, and tried to cross the “wall”, it was buried again under a heap of papers – false statements, half-hearted enquiries, politically loaded commentaries and the inevitable conclusions justifying the atrocities. In short, back to square one. This is another attempt to scale that wall. “Rich Lands of Poor People”: Scenario of Chhattisgarh Chandra Bhushan, a researcher on mineral policy writes: “India announced a new National Mineral Policy (for non-coal and non-fuel minerals) in early April (2008), after two-and-a-half years of wrangling between mineral-rich states and the central government, between steel-makers, iron ore miners and exporters. The objective of this policy, NMP-2008, is clear: it will promote privately-owned, large-scale, mechanized mines – if they happen to be controlled by multinationals, still better…. NMP-2008 ignores the fact that mining in India is not only about minerals and a simple ‘dig and sell’ proposition, it is about tribals and backward castes and their land and livelihood alienation. It is about poverty, backwardness and Naxalism. It is also about deforestation and biodiversity impact, water security and pollution.” Ravi Tiwari, General Secretary of the Chhattisgarh Cement Manufacturers’ Association accidently blurts out the truth when he states in an article dated 25/9/2007 in the “Jansatta”. “This State is as rich under its soil, as those who dwell on it are economically impoverished.” He tells us that Chhattisgarh has more than 28 precious mineral resources including limestone, dolomite, coal, iron ore, diamond, gold, quartzite, tin ore, tin metal, granite, corrundum, marble, beryl, bauxite, uranium, alexandrite, copper, silica, fluorite and garnet. In September 2008, a road blockade by hundreds of villagers of the “Jameen Bachao Sangharsh Samiti” stalled a proposal for acquiring an area of over 105 square kilometers situated in 30 villages of Kunkuri Tehsil of district Jashpur to the Jindal Power and Steel Limited “to prospect for gold, diamond, platinum group of minerals, precious and semiprecious gemstones”. The way companies are zeroing on mineral resources is illustrated by the cement sector. There are about 8225 million tones of limestone in Chhattisgarh, predominantly in the Raipur, Durg, Janjgir, Bilaspur, Rajnandgaon, Kawardha and Bastar districts, a large proportion of which is cement grade. Today more than 6% of the country’s cement is produced here by 7 large and 4 small cement plants with a total capacity of nearly 10.5 million tones. In the past decade the unit of the public sector Cement Corporation of India at Mandhar has closed down and the well-known brands of ACC and Ambuja have been taken over by the Swiss multinational Holcim. Indeed 12.5% of Holcim’s total sales internationally are now from its 24 Indian plants. The French multinational Lafarge has also taken over two cement plants in Chhattisgarh. In its last term the Raman Singh government has signed MOUs with 11 companies, for setting up new plants as well as expanding old ones. If these new capacities are achieved, it would more than triple the cement production to about 36 million tones. Seven percent of the country’s bauxite, about 198 million tones, is available in the Sarguja, Jashpur, Kawardha, Kanker and Bastar districts. It is being mined at present in Sarguja by the now privatized Balco (Sterlite) company in Chhattisgarh and Birla’s Hindalco company of Uttar Pradesh. More than 200 adivasi families have lost their lands to Hindalco so far and the process is still continuing. Although theoretically a lease agreement is executed, which states that the company would restore the land to its original condition as far as is practicable, but in reality no rent whatsoever is paid, and in the name of employment one person from the affected family works as lowly paid contract labour. Discontent is rife among these landless adivasi miners. It is pertinent that Dheeraj Jaiswal, a notorious SPO in erstwhile SP Kalluri’s retinue, and charged of many fake encounters and rapes in the name of fighting Naxals, doubles up as a goonda for Hindalco, patrolling the area in the company jeep to keep its labour in order. Bauxite is processed into aluminium, an important input in the aviation and defence industry. There is a global scarcity of this mineral, so the corporate hawks are always on the lookout for potential deposits. Sixteen percent of the country’s coal, a whopping 39,545 million tones is to be found in the Raigarh, Sarguja, Koriya and Korba districts of northern Chhattisgarh. On 5th January 2007, the adivasis of Village Khamariya, Tehsil Tamnar were subjected to vicious and brutal lathicharge when in a public hearing ostensibly arranged by the district administration, but clearly dominated by the Jindal company, they raised objections to giving up their lands to the Jindal Coal Mines. The public hearings for environmental clearances to three more power projects including AES Chhattisgarh Power (a joint venture with the American energy giant) were recently stalled by villagers protesting that they had not been notified and that they apprehended widespread pollution. The Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative Ltd (IFFCO) had to withdraw its proposal of setting up a 1000 mw coal-based thermal power plant in Premnagar in Sarguja district in March after strong protests. The villagers organized in the “Gram Sabha Parishad” had attacked IFFCO officials conducting “secret surveys” and had protested the diversion of the Atem river for the plant. When the company persisted and got their leader arrested, over 1,000 people marched to the police station to get him released. The new site subsequently chosen by IFFCO, 10km away, also came into serious controversy in November 2008, when villagers who had passed a resolution against the project, found that their Sarpanch was being whisked away secretly to a meeting in a police jeep, disguised as a policeman! All this would have been amusing, had it not been so dead serious. The very first notification issued by the BJP govt. of Chhattisgarh after its recent electoral victory was of the splitting up of the Chhattisgarh State Electricity Board into 5 separate companies, a move which had been consistently resisted by the workers’ and engineers’ associations. This move is widely seen as a hidden privatization, and foreign, particularly American, companies are also reported to be in the bidding. Chhattisgarh produces the cheapest electricity in the country and private players after taking over the CSEB would use cut-throat competition to push other State Electricity Boards out of the running. It would also mean a neglect of rural electrification because it entails greater distribution costs. The workers of CSEB, particularly the independent “Vidyut Karmachari Janta Union” are on strike, and ESMA has been invoked against them. For the proposed power plant of the CSEB at Bhaiyathan in Sarguja, a private developer – Indiabulls Power Generation Ltd would be the main player, the CSEB basically providing the fig-leaf with a 26% stake, since the coal blocks have been allotted in its name. Even otherwise, in the coal sector, the presence of the coal mafia is so overpowering that an MP of Dhanbad has alleged in a letter to the concerned Parliamentary Committee that “SECL could earn only Rs 800 crore profit in the fiscal year 2006-07 whereas it (the earning) could have been more than Rs 30,000 crore if the government could have reduced the pilferage.” In particular, it is an open secret that in Chhattisgarh, the Aryan Coal Beneficiaries company (which virtually runs the pro-BJP daily newspaper Haribhoomi) has a monopoly over the washery business and therefore makes a lot of money at SECL’s expense. With the changes in mining policy permitting foreign companies, the Arrow company has started drilling the first of thirteen wells at the Tatapani-Ramkola blocks approximately 90 km south of Ambikapur in district Sarguja. The well is being drilled by the Australian drilling company South West Pinnacle Drilling and coal is expected to be touched at a depth of 500-900m. Remember Dilip Singh Judeo, “Raja” of Jashpur and BJP leader of the aggressive re-conversion movement against the Christian community, being caught taking bribes on camera from a company representative before the last assembly elections? What is rarely revealed is that the company was the Australian mining giant – Broken Hill Properties (BHP). One-fifth of the country’s iron ore – about 2336 million tones averaging 68% purity is found in the Dantewada, Kanker, Rajnandgaon, Bastar and Durg districts. The Bhilai Steel Plant is one of the world’s most efficient steel plants, yet it is being deliberately tripped up by private players particularly Jindal Steel & Power. The scramble for the best deposits have started between the public sector NMDC and the Tata and Essar groups, with litigation pending in the Delhi High Court. But this is not all. It is claimed that Tata has acquired Corus. And that Essar Steel is to buy the American steel firm Esmark. Last year, Essar bought Minnesota Steel for an undisclosed sum, only days after it also agreed to acquire Canadian firm Algoma Steel for $1.6bn. The elite of India choose to regard these events as a coming of age of India Inc. and a mark of our becoming a global superpower. The Esmark chief executive James Bouchard, is more forthright and says “Esmark needed a strategic partner as raw material and transport costs rose”. In other words, Essar and Tata are going to be the Indian face of the big foreign mining companies who are facing a raw material crunch today. All these acquisitions have been financed by hefty loans from FFIs, which are going to be a stone around the necks of these companies in the present financial crisis. On 17th May 2008, about 5,000 tribals from 25 villages took out a two-day ‘padyatra’ under the banner of ‘Adivasi Mahasabha’ from Bhansi, where the proposed steel plant of Essar is to come up, to Faraspal of district Dantewada, to protest mining of iron ore from the Bailadila mountains. They claimed that the government has granted mining leases to 96 industrial houses besides Tata and Essar in the Bailadila area and demanded that the mountains, 40 km long and 10km wide, which contained iron ore deposits to the tune of 300 crore tonnes should not be given on lease to private companies for mining as it could pose a threat to the existence of the mountains as also the culture of local tribals. As regards the earnings of the state, Praveen Patel of the Tribal Welfare Society reveals some startling details: “There is nothing to take pride in the news that Chhattisgarh has earned Rs.7 billion in mineral royalty on coal, bauxite and iron ores during the first nine months of the current fiscal year 2007-08. The government states that over 2 lakh tonnes of iron ore has been excavated in first nine months but what about the rate of Royalty earned in iron ore only? Why are those figures not shared with the public. Let me throw some idea to lift the veil. As per my information, the average royalty of iron ore which the state has collected is about Rs. 27/- per metric tonne only whereas the current international rates of iron ore are in the range of above US $ 210. It would have been better, if the government would have stated bluntly that they are allowing the daylight robbery of iron ore, the parallel of which is not seen anywhere else in the world.” The Bastar region is one of the richest in mineral resources – not only in iron ore, but also perhaps a host of other unexplored minerals including limestone, bauxite, and even diamond and uranium. In 2005 it was not only with Tata and Essar and Texas Power Generation that confidential MOUs were signed allotting iron ore deposits, coal blocks, and hectares and hectares of land, but scores of companies were given prospecting and mining licenses. Some of these MOUs were signed abroad, and rumours were rife about the enrichment of bureaucrats and politicians, and also of course contribution to the party coffers. Unfortunately for the powers that be, however, there happened to be lakhs of adivasis – neglected, exploited and oppressed by the “mainstream” – literally sitting on top of these most precious assets, and even more unfortunately for them, since the early 80’s the Naxal movement had dug deep roots there. The estimate of the then Director General of Police DGP Rathore was that there were about 50,000 “Sangham” (or members of the peasant committees and women and youth organizations) of the Maoists in the year 2005. And so started the “Salwa Judum” a massive and brutal ground clearing operation that was to affect about 3.5 lakhs of adivasis in 644 villages, the most widespread displacement anywhere in the country. “Draining out the water and killing the fish” was the expression used by Mahendra Karma. “Jan Denge, Jameen Nahi Denge!” – A Fierce Resolve. “Those who are going to become homeless and uprooted in this race of so-called development, they will also be finally forced to accept the bitter truth that they cannot stop the loot of their lands and resources by any democratic and non-violent means. This is a dangerous situation. Even a combative organization like “Narmada Bachao Andolan”, which included a large number of educated persons, has accepted the bitter truth that there is no administrative or legal means of preventing the loot of resources. Now it is only through unity and by force that these plunderers can be stopped. That is the reason why today, in Kalingnagar, Nandigram etc. there is a situation of “do or die”. All these struggles are proving to be landmarks in stopping the loot. The people of these areas have firmly resolved that come what may, they will not let any government officer set foot on their land. In these circumstances if the government uses force, violence may erupt.” Prashant Bhushan, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court “Stop Land Acquisition”, Nai Azadi Udghosh, February 2007 (Translation ours) All over the country the peasantry is up in arms against the policy of land acquisition and Special Economic Zones. Jhajjar in Haryana, Dadri in Uttar Pradesh, Raigarh and Madgaon in Maharashtra, the Chengara struggle of Kerala, the struggles in Polavaram and Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh, agitations against the acquisition for JP Cement in Rewa and for Reliance, Essar and Hindalco in Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh…. Within a year of the passage of the SEZ Act, 300 SEZs had been sanctioned giving 1,40,000 hectares of land to private companies. The draconian provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 do not give the peasant any remedy once the state rejects any objections he/she makes, and declares that his/her land has to be acquired for public purpose. The Judiciary of this country, led by the apex court, has been, if anything, implementing the policies of imperialist globalization more consistently and harshly than the Executive. It has refused to review what is considered “public purpose” by the government in the name of not interfering with government policy. It has stated that the directive principles – which hold that a) the resources of the people held in trust by governments must be used for the greatest common good, and b) that the concentration of wealth in a few hands should be discouraged – are not enforceable by a court of law. In other words, the “socialism” of the Preamble has no place in this era. Our Indian Judiciary has gone a step ahead of the British colonial masters who at least distinguished between “acquisition for companies” and “acquisition for public purpose” by providing for them in two separate chapters of the Land Acquisition Act. In fact, earlier, when the government acquired for companies, it was necessary to follow the rules framed in this regard, which mandated that the government enquire whether other alternative non-agricultural land was available or not, and whether the company had made adequate efforts to purchase the land itself, before it stepped in. Under the euphemism of “public private partnership”, development has been redefined to mean that public resources are to be used for private profits! So much for the Constitution! Interestingly the Secretary of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation came out with a report recently, expressing grave concern that rich countries and rich companies were taking over vast tracts of lands in poor nations, seriously jeopardizing food security. The report gave an instance of 10 lakh hectares of land being taken over in Madagascar where conditions of starvation are prevailing among the rural masses. In fact the report went a step further and said this tendency could be described as “neo-colonialism”! Our country is indeed faithfully following this path charted out for it. The loot of precious mineral resources has further intensified from adivasi areas all over the country since 2005. And the adivasis, with their sense of identity and dignity, their communal way of life in co-existence with nature, and their strength of collectivity have been resisting it with all the strength at their command. The eastern states of Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh and the contiguous parts of West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh have become the storm centre of this resistance. As part of a People’s Tribunal into the police firing that took place in Tapkara block close to Ranchi, we witnessed large defiant mobilizations of adivasi people and saw the ”janta barrier” they had put up to keep out government and NHPC officials trying to implement the Koel Karo dam project. The project had finally to be given up. In Jharkhand alone, 46 MOUs have been signed including with Arcelor Mittal, but so far not even a single company has been able to set up its plant. Peoples’ movements have sprung up spontaneously and are holding out their own against powerful companies. And no doubt the overarching presence of the Maoist movement in the background has prevented the State from deploying overwhelming force to crush the peoples’ movements. The incident of police firing described below is considered to be one of the factors leading to the recent defeat of Sibu Soren. *”We shall give up our lives but not land.” The slogan is overwhelming across the state of Jharkhand against displacement induced by the development projects. It is not only a slogan for the Adivasis but it is also their determination, pledge and hope to ensure their ownership rights over the natural resources i.e. land, forest and water. They have already won the battle against the Field Firing Range in Netarhat and the Power Project in Koel-Karo near Ranchi, which has inspired another ten thousand Adivasis of Kathikund and Shikaripara blocks of Dumka district too. They have called off a “Janta Curfew” in the areas against the police firing, which took place on December 6 2008, where activist Lakhiram Tuddu lost his life and 7 people were severely injured including 3 police men. The incident took place, when 5 thousand people had gathered near Kathikund Police station under “Jail Bharo Abhiyan” against the arrest of activists – Munni Hansada, Charan Kumar, Hopna Baski and Rajcharan Murmu and demanding for their immediate release. ….The problem had started in the region in 2005 when the RPG group power utility, CESC Ltd had signed an MoU with Arjun Munda, the former chief minister of Jharkhand on 15 of September 2005 for setting up a coal based mega power plant with the capacity of 1000 mega watt and an estimated investment of Rs. 4,000 crore. The company requires 1000 acres of land for the plant, where 6 villages would be ruined and 10 thousand people would be displaced. But the fact is the company would provide merely 250 mega watts to the Jharkhand State Electricity Board at regulated prices while the remaining 750 mega watts would be given to the national grid. In this case, how does the state government envisage addressing the power crisis? Another big traditional meeting was held at Pokharia village of Kathikund in Dumka on May 8, 2008, where thousands of Adivasi men, women and children had gathered in the blazing sun. The agriculture minister Nalin Soren was socially boycotted for offering Rs. 13 lakh cash, one vehicle and Rs. 20 thousand per month as honorarium to the village-head Fulo Marandi of Amgachi of Dumka district for convincing the villagers to surrender their land for the proposed power plant. The other five villagers were found guilty as they had guided Basant Soren the son of Sibu Soren in approaching the village head when he had visited Amgachi village to convince the village head for the project and the crime of the police officer Jai Prakash Toppo was for refusing to hand over these five middle men to the villagers therefore he was also socially boycotted. It was also declared in the “Dishum Baishi” that the land would not be given for the company at any cost and every one would be punished who would be found guilty in land alienation activities.” Gladson Dungdung, Indigenous India Blogspot. “The war for land surfaced with a vicious intensity in Jharkhand when angry villagers first thrashed Bhushan Power and Steel Company’s surveyors, then blackened their faces and made them chew their shoes before garlanding them with slippers and parading them at Sarmohuda village in East Singbhum district. The incident forced Bhushan Power and Steel Company Limited to announce suspension of its acquisition drive for its Rs 12,000 crore greenfield steel plant in Potka block of the district. Apart from the three million tonne Greenfield steel plant, Bhushan also proposes to set up a 900 mw power plant. The three land surveyors, Yusuf Ahmed, Sahdeo Singh and Sheetal Kumar were stopped by villagers who had gathered under the banner of Gram Ganraj Parishad and Bhoomi Sudhar Andolan, and after the thrashing, bound and dragged them to the police station, a Bhushan Steel spokesman said . Bhoomi Sudhar Andolan Convenor Ramesh Hansda alleged that the company was conducting the land survey without permission from the district administration, a charge denied by Bhushan Steel.” Sanjay Ojha, TNN, 13 Sepember 2008. “Step into Jharkahnd’s Tentoposi village in Seraikela district and you will be greeted with hostile glances. Sitting on rich mineral reserves of iron ore, residents of this village are constantly under the fear of displacement and loss of livelihood sources. Tata Steel has already announced that it will set up a 12-million tonne integrated steel plant in the area at an investment of Rs 42,000 crore and has signed an MOU with the state government. The villagers suspect that there are people lurking around the village to usurp their land. Hence, they are on alert. They have created a security cordon around the village. Volunteers, wielding bows and arrows, guard the barricaded village at all hours. No government official or a media person is allowed in. There are several other companies eying the rich mineral deposits of this tribal-dominated state. Since the state was carved out of Bihar in 2000, the state government has signed 44 MOUs with companies like Arcelor Mittal, Tata and Jindal for mega industrial ventures worth Rs 198,362 crore. These prospective investors will acquire over 45,000 hectares and eventually displace more than 1,000,000 people, mostly from the east and west Singhbhum and Seraikela-Kharswan region, says Xaviar Dias, coordinator of Bindrai Institute of Research Study and Action (birsa), a Jharkhand-based tribal rights group. Recent incidents at Singur (in West Bengal) and Kalinganagar (in Orissa) have incensed the tribals more. They have vowed to sacrifice their lives to protect their land rather than vacate it for industrial development. All villages where the industrial giants have announced to set up projects are currently under the vigilance of more than 60 tribal organizations. Under the banner of Jharkhand Mines Area Coordination Committee (jmacc), these groups have announced a battle against mining and displacement. “The minerals will be tainted with blood if any of these companies dare to acquire even an inch of tribal land,” says Puneet Minz, general secretary of jmacc. Minz refuses to divulge names or any information about the tribal groups involved in the anti-displacement movement. “Police and the state machinery are after us. Once we disclose the names, they will be either picked up or tortured to quit the movement,” says Minz.” A K Gupta, Down to Earth In Orissa, the Hirakud dam was in the news for two reasons recently. One was that the oustees of the dam received compensation after 4-5 decades. The other was that the farmers of the area were strongly protesting the diversion of water from the Hirakud dam to industry. This in a nutshell spells out the cruel apathy that development has been for tribal people, and lays bare the sound reasoning behind what appears to be a stubborn or irrational resistance to acquisition and industrialization. That is, that not only the displaced but even the so-called beneficiaries are bound to be cheated when the state’s singular concern is to aid the fattening of private capital, and incidentally the fattening of its own representatives in the bargain. “Farmers say they will not accept anything less than a complete ban on industrial use of the dam water. On March 23 2008, Bhagat Singh’s 76th martyrdom day the farmers renewed their pledge to continue their fight for water. They gathered at ‘Chasi Rekha’, a border wall inside the reservoir beyond which industrial units are not allowed to draw water. Holding the dam water in their palms, they pledged: “We will not allow company raj on Hirakud water. “On November 6, 2007, some 30,000 farmers had gathered at the reservoir in Sambalpur district. Many were injured in police lathicharge (see ‘Groundswell’, *Down To Earth*, December 31, 2007). Soon after the incident, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced a Rs 200-crore package for the repair and renovation of the Hirakud canal system. Lingaraj, convenor of the Western Orissa Farmers Coordination Committee, says the package is aimed at diverting attention from the core issue of water diversion. They want the government to cancel all post-2003 agreements with industrial units and reach water to over 20,000 hectares in the command area. Another of their demands is that Patnaik should punish companies illegally drawing water from the dam. Ranjan K Panda Meanwhile the private violence by company goons of POSCO and the Tatas against the adivasi communities has been intensifying. Abhay Sahoo, the popular leader of the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti was arrested on 12th October 2008 when he was undergoing treatment at Bhutmundei, Paradeep and 23 false cases were foisted on him so as to deny him bail. The events of Orissa have forced the organizations and activists of the anti-displacement movements to think and debate how to resist state violence and private corporate violence, and to assert the right of the people to resist under all circumstances and by all means. We in CMM also experienced this when we visited the Boringpader village in Lanjigarh (Niyamgiri) district Kalahandi in 2005. When a police jeep was seen in the distance, the entire village came out – women, men and children with whatever they could lay hands on – bows and arrows, axes, sickles and sticks. The jeep stopped at a distance and a policeman came out with his hands raised in a gesture of surrender. When he came closer he told the leaders apologetically that he had been sent from the police station to get the details of the visitors. After taking those he left, and the people relaxed. Later the villagers explained that the first time they had taken out a procession against the Vedanta company, the company goons had attacked them ferociously, people had fled in fright and had been chased away for several kilometres. Ever since then, they said, they always carry their traditional weapons and no-one has dared to attack their processions and meetings! JAGATSINGHPUR, June 26, 2008: Lawlessness reigned supreme in Govindpur village as anti-Posco activists, on the rampage since last week following the death of one of their activist Dula Mandal, today confined two persons and claimed recovery of huge cache of weapons and bombs from Govindpur school premises. The Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samity (PPSS) activists claimed to have made a break through to the assault and murder of Dula Mandal. We confronted a pro-project activist Mr Narottam Mohanty, confined and interrogated him, they said. Some of the anti-Posco activists then assaulted schoolteacher Mr Jadumani Das to ascertain as to who had attacked Mandal. Basing on the information provided by Mr Mohanty and Mr Das, they raided the school premises and claimed to have recovered six boxes containing country bombs, 75 swords and other weapons. It may be noted here that Mandal and other anti-Posco activists had clashed near the Govindpur primary schools premises on 20 June. Bombs were hurled and Dula Mandal died in the attack. The PPSS which is observing a Black Week since 22 June, had alleged that it was a pre-planned attack by goons who had been hiding at the school. The counter version was that a pro-project faction was holding a meeting at the school when their rivals started pelting stones leading to the violence. Police had arrested 22 people in this connection with the clash even as PPSS activists aggressively held a meeting attended by CPI leader Mr AB Bardhan and leaders of all Opposition political parties.” Statesman News Service. “Trouble started brewing in Kalinga Nagar when on Monday TATA people tried performing religious rituals at the proposed site in Kalinga Nagar despite strong protests from locals. They were chased away by the local people but ultimately performed the ritual in a different place near Maithan steel plant. On Tuesday they made yet another attempt to break the people’s resistance with about 200 people camping in two different locations near the proposed site supposedly for the construction of the boundary wall which has stopped since 2nd Jan 06 when the police shot dead men, women and children. Kalinga Nagar Anti-displacement Forum activist (BBJM) Rabi Jarika claims these are not construction workers but goons deployed to attack and harm the tribals protesting against TATA. He is sure that the plan is to surround them from all sides and attack like it has happened in similar situations elsewhere be it proposed POSCO site at Dhinkia or Nandigram. Seeing the heavy deployment of the goons the locals have now also assembled at the proposed site and have braced themselves for yet another confrontation to save their land. The tension reached a high point yesterday when almost two dozen people in 7-8 motorcycles tried entering the proposed site. The locals claim some of them were the likes of goons from Jamsedhpur deployed by TATA in Kalinga Nagar. The locals captured these motorcycle borne troublemakers who were not harmed, though the motorcycles were set afire and broken “to make it loud and clear to the State and TATA company that they would continue to resist the land grab and any such attempt to snatch their constitutional rights” said Jarika. The motorcycle borne assailants are now hiding inside the Jindal steel plant premises. Rabi Jarika alleges that the district administration and police are hand in glove with TATA goons as they only could have allowed such a massive deployment of armed goons. According to the locals the TATA goons are well armed and have come in cars and motorcycles using the main roads. BBJM activists claim that such free movement of the goons can only be possible with the aid of the state. “Do they want another massacre like 2nd Jan” asked Dabar Kalundia who had survived a murderous attack on him by Arbind Sing, a TATA accomplice, on 1st May this year. In that attack Amin Banara, another BBJM activist had been killed by the bullets of the TATA goons. Previous to that Jogendra Jamuda had been attacked by armed men which he miraculously survived. “While the goons are armed with guns and bombs to attack us we are armed with our traditional weapons like arrows and axes to protect ourselves” said Kalundia. Some of the locals also allege that BJD minister Prafula Ghadei has a big role to play.” Surya, posted on the Cgnet. In West Bengal, the Singur Krishi Jameen Raksha Committee won a well-deserved victory with the retreat of the Tatas, who left “without paying their bill” (as aptly put by Shri D. Bandhopadhyay, ex Secretary for Land Reforms) of more than Rs. 532 crores spent by the West Bengal government on land acquisition, construction of boundary wall, police protection and subsidy on land transfer. After this, a vicious media campaign was carried out by this influential corporate group personally targetting Mamta Bannerji, to deflect the attention of the readership from the just struggle of the people of Singur against the acquisition of multi-crop fertile agricultural land and for the rights of tillers (as opposed to absentee landlords). Ratan Tata even issued an Open Letter to the youth of West Bengal exhorting them to side with Budhadeb to get development and jobs! The CPM cadres in turn set up a Nano Bachao Committee! A CBI court convicted Suhrid Dutta, CPM Zonal Secretary, in the murder of the young agitator Tapasi Malik. The CPM loudly proclaims itself as anti-imperialist, how then can it fail to see that today Tata, Ambani, Jindal, Mittal are the Indian face of that imperialism? The pattern of “development” being aggressively pushed by these corporate barons neither represents a rational and sustainable use of resources; nor substantial expansion of purchasing power and local markets; nor improvement in the extremely poor living standards of masses of our people, but is a mere integration into the loot machine of finance capital. The results are before us – a handful of billionaires, nearly two lakh peasant suicides, and 77% of our population earning less than Rs. 20 a day. In Nandigram, the notification for an SEZ – a chemical hub of the Salem group (notorious as “the mass killer of communists” in Indonesia) had to be cancelled following the widespread outrage against police firing on protesting peasants. After this there were repeated efforts by the government and CPM cadres to “recapture” Nandigram by brute force, which were militantly resisted by the Bhoomi Ucched Pratirodh Committee. The state’s argument was, that after the notification was cancelled the people did not have a right to prevent the entry of the police and government servants, that would amount to setting up a “parallel governance” which could not be tolerated. In a sense, this captures a fundamental feature of the resistance to acquisition today – the assertion of the people’s right to self-rule – as opposed to a struggle only for better compensation and rehabilitation. The embers of Singur and Nandigram had hardly died down, when Lalgarh in district West Medinipur burst into flames: “The entire chain of events started after the 2nd November land mine explosion targeting the convoy of West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and union steel and mines minister Ram Vilas Paswan as they were returning from the inauguration of the Jindal Steel Works special economic zone (SEZ) in Salboni in West Midnapore district. Around 5000 acres of land have been acquired for this project, of which 4500 acres have been handed over by the government and 500 acres have been purchased directly by Jindal from landowners. Reportedly, a large portion of this land was vested with the government for distribution amongst landless tribals as part of the land reforms program and also included tracts of forests……Understandably, there were major grievances amongst the tribals against this, although the mainstream media had constantly portrayed a very rosy picture of the entire project.The land mine explosion was blamed as usual on the Maoist insurgents allegedly active for a long time in Salboni and the adjacent Lalgarh area……The police and CRPF, led by the officer in charge of Lalgarh police station, Sandeep Sinha Roy and the superintendent of police of West Midnapore district, Rajesh Singh, unleashed a reign of terror in 35 villages encompassing the entire tribal belt of Lalgarh. In raids throughout the night of November 6th, women were brutally kicked and beaten up with lathis and butts of guns. Among the injured, Chitamani Murmu, one of whose eyes was hit by a gun butt, and Panamani Hansda, who was kicked on her chest and suffered multiple fractures, had to hospitalized. Chitamani’s lost her eye because of the injury. Eight other women were badly wounded. These police brutalities soon reached a point where the adivasis had no other option but to rise up in revolt. …… On 6th November they assembled near the Lalgarh police station and surrounded it, effectively cutting it off, and the policemen inside, who had been rampaging in villages the previous night but had now locked themselves inside the police station, did not dare to venture out. Electricity to the police station was disconnected and all the lights were broken. What began as rumblings of protest took the shape of a spontaneous mass uprising the next day. On 7th November, when the ruling CPI(Marxist) was “observing” the anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution throughout West Bengal, ten thousand Santhal men and women, armed with traditional weapons, came out and obstructed the roads leading to Lalgarh, disconnecting it from Midnapur and Bankura. Roads were dug up and tree trunks were placed on the road to obstruct the entry of police vehicles, in the same way as it had been done in Nandigram…… Towards the night of 7th November, the people also disconnected telephone and electricity lines, virtually converting a vast area into a liberated zone. The apex social organization of the Santhals, the Bharat Jakat Majhi Madwa Juan Gaonta took up the leadership of the struggle, although the leader of the organization, the “Disham Majhi” Nityananda Hembram has himself admitted that the organization has no control over the movement; rather the movement is controlling the organization. Smaller organizations of the tribals, such as the Kherwal Jumit Gaonta, that have been playing active roles in the struggle have openly called for armed resistance, stating that there is no other way for the survival of the adivasis. The demands of the adivasis were so “earthy” and original that the administration did not know how to respond. The demands were that the superintendent of police Rajesh Singh should publicly apologize by holding his ears and doing sit-ups, a traditional way of punishing errant youngsters, the guilty policemen should crawl on the streets of the villages where they had tortured people, rubbing their noses on the ground, again another traditional way of humiliating wrongdoers, and Rs 200,000 compensation for the injured and assaulted. The demands were marked by the total reliance of the adivasis on their traditional systems of dispensing justice, and not looking up to the formal judicial process which they have realized is by nature weighted against the poor and marginalized…….. On 10th November, adivasis led by the tribal social organizations set up new roadblocks in the Dahijuri area. When the police lathicharged the assembled people and arrested some of the leaders of the Gaontas, the situation turned explosive. The tribals surrounded the police officials present and a crowd of few thousand adivasis, armed with bows and arrows, axes and daggers, and led by women wielding broomsticks, chased the police for four kilometers along the road leading to Jhargram. The police were forced to retreat from the area and release all the leaders of the social organizations they had arrested…. The state has been helpless in front of this upsurge and has been trying to “negotiate” with the tribals. But what has been frustrating their efforts is the essentially democratic nature of this upsurge. Although the administration has been holding multiple all-party meetings with the dominant political parties, CPI(M), Trinamool Congress, Congress and the Jharkhand Party, the leaders of these parties have openly admitted to their inability to exert any influence on the adivasis. The adivasis are not letting any political leaders access to the movement, including tribal leaders like Chunibala Hansda, the Jharkhand Party (Naren faction) MLA from Binpur. They are demanding that any negotiations be carried out in the open rather than behind closed doors. Even traditional leaders like the “Disham Majhi” Nityananda Hembram and other “majhis” are having to talk directly with the adivasis before talking to the administration. Villagers of the ten villages in Lalgarh have formed ten village committees with one coordinating committee to negotiate with the administration. ……The state and the CPI(M) have not dared to respond with overt violence yet, although there are news that a motorbike-borne militia is being assembled nearby by Sushanta Ghosh, the notorious CPI(M) minister and Dipak Sarkar, the CPI(M) district secretary. …..It is quite expected that radical political forces would have been active among the adivasis as the latter have been the most downtrodden people in India and it is their land and resources which is being handed over for corporate plunder. However the presence and participation of the Maoists or similar forces in no way delegitimizes this seemingly spontaneous, and democratic, expression of people’s anger. This is amply expressed by what Arati Murmu, a woman who had been assaulted by the police, and who had gone to block the Lalgarh police station had to say: “Whenever there is a Maoist attack the police raid our villages and torture our women and children. For how long will we suffer this oppression by the police? All of us are Maoists, let the police arrest us. Today we have come out.” Partho Sarthi Ray, Sanhati, November 13, 2008. Global mining companies see Maoists as the greatest challenge to their penetration. In his article, ”The State As Landlord: Naxalism feeds off genuine issues. It calls for policy, not police”, in the weekly magazine ‘Outlook’, Prem Shankar Jha writes:- “Lakshmi Mittal of Arcelor fame is finally about to deliver on his promise to invest in his home country. The plans he has unveiled are mind-boggling: Rs 1,00,000 crore ($24 billion) to be invested in two steel plants and iron ore mines in Jharkhand and Orissa that will produce 24 million tonnes of steel when they come on stream. Planning for the project is going well: all that remains is to identify a source of iron ore for its Orissa plant. Herein lies the rub. For, if the Maoist insurgency in central India continues to develop at its present speed, he may never find the iron ore he needs to operate his plants……… Twenty-nine months after the first ‘swarm attack’ by 500 Maoist cadres backed by local tribals on the jail, police station and armoury in Jehanabad, ‘Naxalism’ is no longer considered a fringe phenomenon. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has candidly acknowledged that it is the most serious threat the country faces. But there is a huge gap between this realisation and the efforts that the government has made so far to meet it. Literally, all that it has done so far is to meet state governments’ increasingly urgent demands for modern weapons, additional CRPF battalions, and the training and despatch of counter-insurgency forces. But New Delhi knows that repression alone is not the answer. The Approach Paper for the 11th Plan could not have put this better or more explicitly: “Our practices regarding rehabilitation of those displaced from their land because of development projects are seriously deficient and are responsible for a growing perception of exclusion and marginalisation. The costs of displacement borne by our tribal population have been unduly high, and compensation has been tardy and inadequate, leading to serious unrest in many tribal regions. This discontent is likely to grow exponentially if the benefits from enforced land acquisition are seen accruing to private interests, or even to the state, at the cost of those displaced. To prevent even greater conflict…it is necessary to frame a transparent set of policy rules that address compensation, and make the affected persons beneficiaries of the projects, and to give these rules a legal format.” Despite its clear perception of the problem, the Manmohan Singh government has done nothing to ‘frame a transparent set of policy rules’ and give them a ‘legal format’. A part of the problem is that the power to acquire land for mines, in particular, was largely devolved to the state governments during the NDA regime, through an amendment of the 1957 Mines and Minerals Act. The NDA government also allowed foreign companies to enter this politically charged area of mineral development. These two enactments have given Naxalite leaders all the moral justification they need to mobilise armed resistance. With only a few exceptions, state leaders have used their powers of land acquisition to enrich themselves or fund their parties. It is no coincidence that the Communist Party (Maoist) came into being only two years after these amendments. While India Inc dreams of overtaking China, the Maoist insurgency has intensified. Since ’04, there have been more than 50 ‘swarm’ attacks on jails, police stations and armouries. All have met with total success. In two attacks in Orissa last month, the Maoists captured 1,600 weapons, including machine guns and AK-47s. In Orissa, 12,000 out of 30,000 posts in the police are vacant, and in three districts they have stopped wearing their uniforms. But Orissa pales into insignificance before the intensity of the uprising in Chhattisgarh, which recorded 531 incidents and 413 deaths in 2007. The Maoists have a single rallying cry: “Development projects are taking away our land and our traditional rights. We will not allow them to proceed.” They are succeeding.”’ Manjeet Kriplani echoes similar sentiments in his article, ”In India, Death to Global Business. How a violent – and spreading – Maoist insurgency threatens the country’s runaway growth” in the American journal ‘Businenessweek’: “On the night of April 24, a group of 300 men and women armed with bows and arrows and sickles and led by gun-wielding commanders emerged swiftly and silently from the dense forest in India’s Chhattisgarh state. The guerillas descended on an iron ore processing plant owned by Essar Steel, one of India’s biggest companies. There the attackers torched the heavy machinery on the site, plus 53 buses and trucks. Press reports say they also left a note: Stop shipping local resources out of the state, or else!….. India has lots of unmined iron ore and coal – the essential ingredients of steel and electric power. Anxious to revive their moribund economies, the poor but resource rich states of eastern India have given mining and land rights to Indian and multinational companies. Yet these deposits lie mostly in territory where the Naxals operate. Chhattisgarh, a state in eastern India across from Mumbai and a hotbed of activity, has 23% of India’s iron ore deposits and abundant coal. It has signed memoranda of understanding and other agreements worth billions with Tata Steel and Arcelor Mittal, De Beers Consolidated Mines, BHP Hilton and Rio Tinto. Other states have cut similar deals. And US companies like Caterpillar want to sell mining equipment to the mining companies now digging in eastern India….” The gravest displacement of our time – an imperialist military strategy The following excerpt of the letter written by a group of environmentalists, scholars and activists to Chief Minister Raman Singh in early 2008 regarding the implementation of the Forest Rights Act in the state describes the extent and gravity of the forced displacement that was caused by Salwa Judum: “However, we are particularly concerned about the rights of those villagers in Dantewada and Bijapur districts who have been compelled to leave their villages due to the ongoing Salwa Judum campaign against naxalites. The total population of about 1200 villages in the two districts is 7.19 lakhs, of which 78.5% is tribal. About 50% of these villages, with an approximate population of 3.5 lakhs, is currently displaced from their villages. While about 47,000 are living in roadside camps set up by the state government, another 40,000 or so have fled to the forest areas of Andhra Pradesh to escape the ongoing violence between Salwa Judum and naxalites. The whereabouts of the remaining 2,63,000 villagers from the abandoned villages is unknown. In at least 644 abandoned villages in the two districts, no gram sabha meetings required under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act for initiating the process of recognition of rights can be organised under present circumstances. At a meeting organised by the Department of Tribal Welfare of Andhra Pradesh, it was decided that the Gutti Koyas who have sought shelter in AP’s forests from the naxal -Salwa Judam violence in Chhattisgarh will not be eligible for recognition of land and forest rights in Andhra. However, due to being displaced from their own villages, they will not be able to claim their rights even in their original villages in Chhattisgarh. Their being deprived of rights in both Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh will be a terrible subversion of justice. Consequently, we appeal to you to suspend implementation of the Act in the affected areas while facilitating speedy return of the villagers to their own villages. In the meantime, no land should be allocated to outsiders and no leases or prospecting licenses for minor minerals should be given in these villages as under PESA. These also require Gram Sabha permission, which is not possible under present circumstances. Yours sincerely, Madhu Sarin, Environmentalist and Scholar; Nagaraj Adve, People’s Union for Democratic Rights; Rohit Jain, Society for Rural, Urban and Tribal Initiative; C.R.Bijoy, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (Tamil Nadu & Pondicherry); Naga Peoples’ Movement for Human Rights; Shankar Gopalakrishnan, Campaign for Survival and Dignity; Gautam Kumar Bandyopadhyay, People’s Alliance for Livelihood Rights, Chhattisgarh; Dr. Nandini Sundar, Delhi University; Xavier Manjooran, Adivasi Mahasabha; Sharachchandra Lele, Senior Fellow & Coordinator, Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Environment & Development; V.S.Roy David, National Convener, National Adivasi Alliance, Kodagu 571234, Karnataka; Tribal Association for Fifth Schedule Campaign (TAFSC), Tamil Nadu; Shubhranshu Choudhary, Journalist; Professor Virginius Xaxa, Delhi University; Kundan Kumar, Phd Scholar; Dr Urmila Pingle, Anthropologist; Soma KP, gender and women’s rights activist, New Delhi; Erica Rustom; Ville-Veikko Hirvelä; Rajesh R; James Pochury; Felix Padel; Manshi Asher, independent researcher, Himachal Pradesh; Malini Kalyanivala; Rishu Garg; Rajesh, Nange Paon Satyagraha, Chhattisgarh; Renji George Joseph, Alliance for Holistic and Sustainable Development of Communities.” The fact that about 644 villages, some estimates put it even higher at around 700 villages, were emptied out and a population of about 3.5 lakhs had been displaced from the Bijapur and Dantewada districts at the heyday of the Salwa Judum operations is undisputed. The Government would like us to believe that this happened voluntarily because all these adivasis fled from Naxalite violence. The Salwa Judum camps, 24 in number were, according to them, set up to shelter those fleeing from such violence. Time and again surveys of the camps have shown otherwise, that people were usually brought to the camps forcibly or against their will and often brought back if they tried to escape. Besides plain arithmetic shows that, even if we are to believe this, there were 47,000 in the government camps which accounts for only 13% of the displaced population. 75% of that displaced population, or about 2.6 lakhs, chose not to go to the camps, and preferred to live in and out of the jungle, even it meant being treated as outlaws. The theory that such a huge and absolute displacement could have occurred spontaneously, is on the very face of it untenable. Let us look at the following facts: That ground clearing for mining and other companies was an important motive and in fact provided the driving force is clear from the MOUs with Tata, Essar, Texas Power Generation, Arcelor Mittal, BHP Biiton, DeBeers, Rio Tinto, Godavari Ispat, Prakash Industries etc and the around 96 mining leases with various companies in the Bailadila area. A bare perusal of the MOUs show that they were being practically handed out high quality iron ore deposits, coal blocks, water from the Indravati river etc. Apart from this, a large number of mining and prospecting licenses were also distributed (sold?) to come into effect if “all went well”, which remain undisclosed to this day. The corporate vested interest is also apparent from the fact that it was the Essar company that provided funds for setting up of the first Salwa Judum camps. It is reported that a foreign company called “Crest” has been given a contract to survey mineral deposits in the South Bastar, Dantewada and Bijapur districts. This company had said that it could undertake this mammoth survey only once the land was cleared. It is now also widely recognised that the ground clearing operation that was attempted to be carried out through Salwa Judum is a military strategy referred to as “strategic hamletting”. This involves clearing out villages and bringing them to roadside camps. This strategy was used by the Americans in Vietnam and the Indian State in Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, and Manipur. In Bastar this strategy has been closely overseen by the Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College, Kanker headed by Retd. Brigadier BK Ponwar. Brigadier Ponwar earlier headed the Warrangte Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School of the Indian Army at Mizoram. In the year 2006 left political parties as also the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha had protested against the statements of two officers of the American Consulate – one heading its Commerce Wing and the other a Regional Security Advisor, who had visited Kanker and Raipur and offered the Chief Minister American assistance in dealing with the state’s insurgency problem. We had condemned this as undue interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation. A few months ago I came to know that the current Chief of Economic and Political Affairs – Michael Neville and a Regional Security Officer – William Inman had visited Kanker and Raipur again. As an advocate familiar with Dr Binayak Sen’s case I had been requested to brief these officers by a staff member of their Mumbai Consulate. I had declined stating that I believed that human rights could not be separated from the policies of globalization and militarization which their country was supporting. It is pertinent that putting Indian Maoists on the American terror list, gives a handle to the Americans to interfere in the affairs of our country ostensibly for protecting American interests (read companies!). The third factor is the heavy military deployment – 19 battalions of CRPFand 2 Naga and Mizo IRB battalions – which were used with ruthlessness to commit all manner of barbarities to cow the adivasi people into submission. The presence of the Salwa Judum, who also no doubt used brutal force themselves, added a factor of unaccountability and spontaneity. Their role was also as informers and guides. In the past three years the incidents of such barbarism have appeared many times in the press, only to be quickly covered up. Some brave journalists notably Shubranshu Choudhary in his column “Basi Ma Uphan” in the evening daily paper Chhattisgarh has reported scores of such cases. We are giving here only a few instances;- On 13th March 2007 when the Naga Batallion and the Salwa Judum entered the Nendra village of Gaganpali panchayat, everyone ran away. But the children of the village were bathing at a hand pump. When the Naga jawans could not find anyone else in the village they shot these 11 children between the ages of 2 and 16 and one young man dead. We are giving their names not because it would make a difference to the reader but to remind them that 12 is not is a statistic but represents human beings (their ages are in brackets) – Soyam Raju (2), Madvi Ganga (5), Midium Nagaiyya (5), Podium Adma (7), Vetti Raju (9), Vanjam Raja (11), Soyam Raju (12), Sodi Adma (12), Madkam Aite (13), Madkam Budraiyya (14), Soyam Rama (16), Soyam Narya (20). 280 persons of Gangrajpadu village were taken by the Salwa Judum to the camp, but 175 of them were murdered, filled in sacking and thrown in the river, because they were protesting against going to the camp. A CRPF jawan of the 119 Batallion, G company told a journalist that they had been given orders that if they saw anyone in those villages after 15 March 2007, he/she would be a Naxalite and if he ran away we could shoot them. On 7th April 2007 a jawan of the Chhattisgarh Armed Force told a journalist that he had been posted there since the 15th of January 2007 and since then his unit alone had killed at least 60 persons. He said that as soon as they would reach a village with the Salwa Judum, people would start running. “We cannot understand the language of the adivasis here. Whoever we could catch, we would kill like a chicken or a goat, on the say so of the Salwa Judum. All this is happening because of our orders from above, and I am very unhappy about it.” The other significant aspect of this strategy was the outlawing and cordoning off of those adivasi people who refused to come to the camps, the total withdrawal of health services, ration shops and local markets. In other words starving out or “sanctions”. This is described in the following excerpts from news items: “Because of Judum the Haat markets were closed down. In the Naxal strongehold areas of the Konta area, after the start of Salwa Judum, the weekly markets had closed down, then the Naxals had started holding a market at Gachanpalli for their so-called people. After the attack of the force (paramilitary) on this market, the Naxalites have changed the venue of the market. The weekly markets are the most important part of a forest products based economy. It is from these markets that Naxalites also get the articles for their daily needs. After the start of the Salwa Judum campaign in 2004 (sic) the villages around the main centers were depopulated. The markets of these centers were also closed down and the economy of South Bastar crumbled. In the interior areas where the Naxals had a stronger base, the villagers left their villages and shifted to the mountains and jungles. Owing to this problem, the markets of Jagargunda, Bhejji, Basaguda, Golapalli, Kankerlanka etc. were closed down. Markets that were operating in the interior like Bhejji were brought to the roadside. The villagers who did not join Salwa Judum were debarred from coming to these market places on the roadsides. The villagers who came to the markets carrying mahua, imli, tora and other forest products began to be victimized as Naxals. Looking to this problem the Naxals started a new market in Gachanpalli. The traders of Cherla, Andhra Pradesh used to come in bullock carts with their wares. The Naxalites had directed that essential items be provided at reasonable prices. But the news of this reached the Salwa Judum supporters of Dornapal. So much forest produce used to come into the market, that the traders couldn’t transport all of it back.” Nai Dunia, 3rd January, 2009. “The Story of the Other Side of the Indravati ……….Quite a few people were already sitting there (in Village Niram) when we arrived. The people respectfully asked us to be seated. When we asked them about the facilities provided by the government they told us that upto two years ago the school and anganwadi centres were functioning here, though not regularly. Similarly the heath workers also used to come sometimes, so at least we and our children could get some kind of relief. But as soon as Salwa Judum started, all these facilities were stopped by the government. The villagers said they couldn’t understand why all these facilities were stopped by the government. Whereas no one had ever objected to their functioning. The villagers said that when Salwa Judum started, the entire populations of the villages of Chinger, Ehkeli,Satwa, Bangoli, etc. were forcibly taken away by the Salwa Judum leaders and the force (paramilitary). But we thought that if we go away, we would neither be able to do our farming nor collect forest produce which is the basic source of our livelihood. All of us will simply die of starvation there. The peasants also stated that there are facing a shortage of grain, salt, oil, chillies, clothes etc, because if they cross the river and go to the Geedam or Tumnar market, the Salwa Judum and force catch them and beat them up badly and take them and throw them in the camp or else murder them. So they don’t go to the market at all. If they require these necessities of life they go walking to another market 80 km away, they have to spend three days doing so.” Shubranshu Choudhari, 11.6.2007, ‘Chhattisgarh’ Like everything else, “Counter-Insurgency” has also become an industry in Chhattisgarh. Crores of rupees come in for defence expenditure and security costs. Huge undisclosed budgets exist for this purpose. And allegations of siphoning off are traded publically. (Even otherwise, out of the 1654 crores sanctioned for modernization of the police force by the Central government for the 13 Naxal affected states, only 2 to 13% have been used for improving weaponry. The lion’s share has gone into building bungalows and offices!) Besides, running the Salwa Judum camps itself is a lucrative proposition for the contractors and Judum leaders, many of whom have built houses and purchased vehicles in this period. From makeshift tents, tin roof structures have been constructed in the camps. All government schemes have been transferred there from the villages. Ration shops, anganwadis, schools, hostels, literacy and health missions…..all funds designated for the villages now come to the camps. Foodstuffs, medicines, relief materials including those sent by international agencies, intended for lakhs of people are claimed to be distributed to a few thousands. And even those are distributed on paper, for now the majority of people, having neither employment nor food have run away. No wonder that the journalists who were trying to expose this scam were beaten up by Salwa Judum goons in the police station. The following news item gives us an idea: “Patwari suspended in rice case. The administration has finally taken stern action in the case of blackmarketeering of rice brought for distribution to the inmates of the Salwa Judum Relief camps, and suspended the Patwari of Dornapal…. On the one hand various kinds of questions are being raised against Salwa Judum by NGOs and political parties, on the other this kind of incident raises doubts about the functioning of the administration. On 15 December the police had raided and seized 100 sacks of rice intended for the inmates of the Dornapal Relief Camp which had been kept for backmarketing in the house of Md Ahmed at Nadi Road. He was found prima facie to be guilty. There is consternation among the employees at this action taken for the first time since the start of the Salwa Judum. Complaints of this nature had been made several times earlier in the Salwa Judum camps. Such irregularities are not a new thing. There has been blackmarketing of all materials which come here for the past two years……Most of the camp inmates have gone back to their respective villages, but despite this the materials are shown to be distributed on the basis on the old figures. If the administration carries out an impartial enquiry, several startling facts will be uncovered.” Haribhoomi, 19/12/2008 This corruption has been acknowledged at the highest levels. Once the present DGP Vishwaranjan was asked to comment on the statement made by the outgoing security advisor to the government of Chhattisgarh – KPS Gill that the police of Chhattisgarh was so corrupt that the police officers posted at Bastar extort bribes for transfers and postings from jawans. He replied,” Had I been there I would have asked how is it that in Punjab, where you finished off terrorism so efficiently, 3/4ths of the officers have houses in England and America, though they have no relatives there?” It might appear that the DGP is exposing corruption very frankly. But on studying his statement more closely we realise that its real meaning is “Gill Sahab, better not speak too much about corruption, if you do, we can expose you as well!” But the issue of graver concern is that the American state has a powerful influence over the top echelons of the police today. This is even more so for Chhattisgarh, from where police officers are regularly sent to America for training. In the Punjab period, officers did not make frequent trips abroad, as they are doing today, yet many houses got built. How many houses are being built now is anybody’s guess! In his statement of 6th May 2008 in the daily ‘Deshbandhu’, Mr Vishwaranjan also admits, “In the Bijapur-Dantewada areas, they (the Naxalites) started raking up the old discontent of the adivasis. Actually adivasis consider the jungle to be their own, they don’t accept that it belongs to the government. In 1910 a revolt took place against the local raja because he tried to implement the Forest Act. He had to call in the British army for help. Ever since then this discontent has taken root. Later on the National Forest Act was implemented. The adivasis could not emotionally accept this.” Recently DGP Vishwaranjan stated that there are at present about 10,000 hard core Maoists and 40,000 people’s militia in Dantewada out of which 15,000 are women. In other words we are back to the magic figure of 50,000 given by DGP Rathore before Salwa Judum started. In that case, what has been achieved by the past 3 years of forcible displacement, detention of thousands in camps, and hundreds of killings? “The Story of a Village” What has Salwa Judum meant for the adivasi people? This is poignantly described in the following narrative of the speech given by an adivasi in a meeting organised at New Delhi by the “Citizens for Peace and Justice in Chhattisgarh”: “After some hesitation he (Chamru) started speaking, ”It was in the December of 2005, the Sarpanch of Mirtur sent a letter to our village (Vechapal). In that it was written that now in Bastar some man-eating people are coming, so if we want to save ourselves from them we should go to the Mirtur camp. The adivasi translating said that man-eating people meant Nagas. Chamru continued, ”We got scared. We got together and decided that first all the men would go and stay in the camp and then we would decide what to do afterwards. In the Mirtur camp there were some old Sangham members who had now become SPOs. Every morning they would first beat us. They would say, “When we went to these peoples’ village with the Naxalites, they had fed us food”. After this they used to take us to other villages and tell us to set fire to houses in those villages. After some days some people of our village ran away from the camp. Even then most of the people used to stay in the camps in the night but mostly come back home in the day time. To scare those people who had run away from the camp, 8 days later, the Salwa Judum and the police went to our village. The others ran away, but Joga Aayami fell into their hands and the Salwa Judum and police together killed him. They took away the 17 year-old daughter Rukni of Sannu Oyami. As far as we know, Rukni is still imprisoned in Jagdalpur jail today. After staying in the camp for two or three months, all of us from our village decided one day that we should run away. In February-March we ran away from the camp and came back to our village. After this Salwa Judum started coming to our village regularly. As soon as they came, we would run away to the jungle. After our running away they set fire to 60-70 houses in our village and took our cattle away. One day in April when I had gone to pick mahua, suddenly the Salwa Judum people came there. I hid behind a tree and they caught hold of 4 women who were picking mahua. They raped the 16 year old daughter Kumari of Sannu Oyami and the 27 year old wife Kamli of Bande Kadti in front of my eyes. I kept watching from behind the tree. They let the two older ladies go. After that they made the young girls wear Naxal uniforms, which they had brought with them. They cut their hair, put a gun on their shoulder and took them away with them. These two girls are still in Jagdalpur jail accused in Naxalite cases. We have already paid 12,000 to the lawyer but he says he can only get them out if we give him 20,000 more. After that we started living in the jungle only, and Salwa Judum started coming very frequently to our village. Each time we would run away, but somebody or the other would get caught. In this way six people of our village have got caught…..Two of them were father and son, They were caught together when they were cutting wood. They were hacked to death and thrown in the river….. None of these 6 was a Sangham member. The Salwa Judum people have burnt my house three times till now. Now there is not a single house in the village which has not been burnt. There are only walls left in the village. Whenever we make a house they come and burn it. This has happened about 10 times. Now we make houses of plastic sheets and are living in the jungle. Jaganath (32), son of Aytu from our village, used to tell people to go the camp and we suspect that he used to spy about our village to the SPOs. The dadas (Naxalites) came to know about this and one day during this period the dadas killed him. There was a school in our village. Now the administration has transferred the school to the Mirtur camp. Not a single person from our village stays in the camp now. That’s why no child of our village goes to school. There is no hospital in our village. We used to go to Mirtur for the market and hospital but now we cannot go to Mirtur for fear of the Salwa Judum. Now we only send old ladies and children to the market to buy salt and oil. They have to walk one full day and after that spend the night somewhere to reach the market in the morning.” Chamru requested me not to write the name of that market. ”Earlier in our village there were 5 Sangham members and the dadas (Naxals) used to come from time to time. They used to take meetings and tell us to do agriculture well and not drink. They never did any harm to us, Sahab”. Chamru told me that this is not only the story of his village. The neighbouring villages like Timenar, Hurepal, Phoolgatta, Dorguda, Kondapal, Pittepal, Neelavaya, Madpal, Indri, Kokur, Tamud, Orvada, Paralnar, Kudalka, Peddapal…in all these villages the story is more or less the same. All of them are living in the jungle. The people of all these villages cannot come out and neither can anyone except Salwa Judum and the police come to our villages. There was no one from the dalam in our village earlier, now one has joined. From my neighbouring villages, 15-20 from some and 30-40 from others have joined the dalam. Before Salwa Judum there were only 1-2 persons from these villages in the dalam.” Chamru also told the names of the villages where all the youth had gone with the Naxalites but he requested me not to write the names of those villages for reasons of security. Chamru can be called a Naxalite. This meeting can be called Naxalite sponsored. But when Chamru was speaking there was pin drop silence in the whole hall and I saw tears in the eyes of many people sitting in the chairs around me. The population of those 644 villages like Vechapal is about three and a half lakhs. According to government statistics about 50 thousand of them are in camps and the remaining 3 lakhs like Chamru have gone closer to the Naxalites. This is the success of Salwa Judum” Shubranshu Choudhari,14.9.2007, “Chhattisgarh” Every day the newspapers of Chhattisgarh carry disturbing news of killings, most of these are attributed to Maoists. As peace-loving people, far removed from the villages of Bastar, we shudder on reading these. We wish that there were some solution to end this seemingly endless cycle of violence and counter-violence. But we must remember that it is difficult to find the stories of the “Chamrus” in those reports. We have to read between the lines. If the newspaper says “commanders were felled” and shows a photograph of several young men in lungis what does it mean? If we are told the Maoists ruthlessly murdered “a villager” who also was an SPO what does that mean? And if we are told nothing at all what does that mean? Though we are often told that “the Maoists threw pamphlets”, it is rarely that a statement of the CPI(Maoist) finds its way to the press, and if so to confirm its authenticity. On 22.12.2007 a statement was published in the name of Gudsa Usendi, Spokesperson of the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee in the Daily Chhattisgarh in response to an article of journalist Asha Shukla. This is how it concludes: “Whatever is being broadcast in the TV channels and newspapers is almost all one-sided. If we make only this storm of one-sided propaganda our source of information we shall make serious mistakes. Ashaji has rightly said that our Chhattisgarh is looked upon as a backward region, otherwise people would have shown the same interest in exposing the frightening and most brutal violence which is going on in the name of Salwa Judum as they have in exposing the Gujarat riots or the killings in Nandigram. Without writing or speaking anything about these women (rape victims described earlier in the article), and hundreds of other men and women, or even trying to find out about them, to try to blame us, or abuse us in very emotionally and literary style as Ashaji has done, shows only dishonesty towards this problem……. Here on the one hand the violence of the Salwa Judum is on…… On the other hand is the retaliatory violence on behalf of a historically defeated people who have been struggling for their water, land and forest for the past 27 years. It is the violence of those who have nothing left to lose. Everything has already been looted from them. ……..They have only two ways left: to surrender and live like slaves in the “relief camps” or to resist even at the cost of their life. I am not trying to give an argument to justify our violence, I am only repeating that the people were forced to make this choice. Sitting in Delhi or Raipur or even remaining confined to the roads of Bastar and shouting “you are killing innocent and helpless people” is very easy, but to touch the hearts and feel the pain of those whose tears have dried up is very difficult. Finally I want to say that in these last two and a half years if despite this barbaric repression there are still people alive in south and West Bastar it is only and only because of our resistance struggle. If our party had not led this people’s resistance history would perhaps not forgiven us. You may callus violent or abuse us, but this is the reality and it is our conviction that history will vindicate us.” Knocking on the doors of the democratic state – do the adivasis of Bastar have any civil liberties? The silence about Bastar is not “natural”. There are many brave journalists, lawyers, social activists in Bastar and Chhattigarh. And many of them have been trying to speak. But journalists have been harassed, beaten, arrested; their homes and jobs taken away from them. False cases, transfers, income tax raids, defamation – the state has a myriad ways to silence social activists. Even a lawyer, Shri Girjuram Kashyap, who was preparing affidavits of villagers against the fake gram sabhas at Lohandiguda was picked up. The politically motivated and criminal incarceration of Dr Binayak Sen – which continues even after 19 months despite the lack of legally admissible evidence and the widespread protest, nationally and internationally – is also to “teach a lesson” and brutally enforce this silence. Salwa Judum began in June 2005, and by December the blood had start trickling out from under “the wall of silence” – the hushed reports of repeated attacks on villages under massive paramilitary cover, the rounding up of entire villages into camps – houses razed to the ground, meager belongings looted, crops ruined and livestock slaughtered, hundreds of ostensible “Sanghams” killed, and all those who refused to come to the camps and preferred to flee to the jungles labelled ‘Maoists’. It was Dr Binayak Sen who took the first brave step of organising a joint All-India fact-finding team of human rights organizations to investigate these disturbing rumours. The team was obstructed, harassed and threatened, but it nevertheless let the nation know what was happening in Dantewada. The report was aptly entitled “When the State makes War on its People”. After this many fact finding teams notably the Independent Citizens Initiative, various governmental commissions such as the National Commision of Women, international human rights organizations like the International Association of Peoples Lawyers and Human Rights Watch, journalists’ and doctors’ associations (Reporters Without Borders and Jan Swasthya Abhiyan), and teams of various political parties like those of the CPI and the Congress have also repeatedly documented atrocities, lawlessness, forcible displacement, pitiful conditions in camps, cases of sexual harassment etc. Letter petitions of the Vanvasi Chetana Ashram have been taken up suo moto by the Chhattisgarh High Court, and the Forum for Fact Finding and Documentation has filed numerous petitions before the State Human Rights Commission. Finally two petitions questioning the legitimacy and violent modus operandi of Salwa Judum have been taken into cognizance by our apex judicial forum – the Supreme Court – one filed by Nandini Sundar, Ramchandra Guha & EAS Sharma, and the other by Kartam Joga, Manish Kunjam and other residents of Dantewada belonging to the Adivasi Mahasabha. What has been the response of our democratic institutions? Take the Ponjer fake encounter case. Not only the CPI, the Forum for Factfinding and Documentation, and the PUCL, but even a 5 member team of Congress MPs including Moolchand Meena and Jamuna Devi had conducted an investigation and declared that 12 innocent villagers had been murdered by the police in March 2007. 8 bodies were exhumed and a magisterial enquiry was ordered. But the police finally registered an FIR in the name of “unknown uniformed persons.” The BJP MLA of Keshkal and Parliamentary Secretary Mahesh Baghel had gone public stating that the 79 persons who were paraded before the press in Raipur as surrendered Naxalites in January 2007, were innocent peasants. He had claimed that not only were they not even Sangham members, but most of them were BJP cadres and he knew them personally. But only a few of these persons could be released. Presumably the rest are still rotting in jail. The gang rape of an adivasi woman by the Mizo jawans had enraged the people of the Nakulnar area in February 2007, and they continuously agitated under the leadership of the Adivasi Mahasabha for the punishment of the jawans and the withdrawal of the Mizo batallion. Those jawans had also threatened and beaten the local adivasi police who had tried to register a case. Thanedar Khalko told an ETV reporter that,”The Mizo jawans beat up anybody. If they are not withdrawn from here, the situation can become explosive. We are only 7 and they are 117. We are helpless before them.” The Dantewada police however colluded to save these jawans. The woman was made to identify the rapists in an identification parade of Mizos with identical Mongoloid features, which was well nigh impossible for her. Apart from this denial and cover-up mode, the other official response has been offensive – to declare every person who opposes the brutalities of Salwa Judum as a “Naxalite supporter”. The extreme example of this was when, in November 2007, the Dantewada collector KR Pisda wrote to the State Government that the Y category security given to Congress MLA Kawasi Lakhma be withdrawn as he was a “Naxalite spokesperson.” The “proof” given for this was, “He has not issued any statement opposing Naxalites. He has not participated in the Salwa Judum. In fact he has demanded that it should be stopped.” Even in the petitions in the Supreme Court, the reply of the Chhattisgarh government was that all the petitioners are “Naxalite supporters!” After the recent elections, as usual, an adivasi MLA, this time Nankiram Kanwar has been adorned with the crown of thorns, namely the post of home minister. It is pertinent that in the previous cabinet he had been Forest Minister, which ministry was taken away from him when he had tried to prosecute the Jindal and Sterlite companies for their illegal encroachment on forest land and felling of thousands of trees. This time he has immediately towed the line. After being made home minister, Mr Kanwar’s first visit was to the RSS office, after which he told the press that all those who oppose Salwa Judum are “anti adivasi”, “Naxalite supporters” and shall be “dealt with sternly.” In which case the list of Naxal supporters is rather daunting – Sandeep Pandey, Justice Srikrishna, EAS Sharma, Nandini Sundar, BD Sharma, D.Raja, Medha Patkar, Kanak Tiwari, D. Bandhopadhyay, Hira Singh Markam and of course the inimitable Ajit Jogi. The latest addition is our Union Home Minister P.Chidambaram who stated during question hour in Rajya Sabha on 16 December 2008 that “We are not in favour of non-state actors taking law enforcement in their hands,” The CMM, which has been consistently agitating for the release of Dr. Binayak Sen, much-loved doctor of the miners and industrial workers of Chhattisgarh, has equally been a strong opponent of the brutal and forcible displacement in Bastar taking place in the name of Salwa Judum and has repeatedly demonstrated against it, for it believes that: ”Injustice anywhere is a threat to Justice everywhere”. No wonder that CMM is therefore very much also in the “firing line”, as DGP Vishwaranjan made clear by his veiled threat that “Niyogi was the first Naxalite.” Chief Minister Raman Singh and DGP Vishwaranjan are literally crowing over the results of the recent assembly elections of November 2008 in Bastar and interpreting them as a mandate in support of Salwa Judum. Is it so? Most of the times nowadays elections are not fought on issues, how else can one explain campaigns using naïve if not outright dumb star celebrities and results determined by crates of liquor. In Chhattisgarh, the burning issues faced by a region reeling under imperialist onslaught were totally absent from the electoral discourse. What to say of poor contract labour or peasants facing displacement, even the issue of the small industrialists did not figure in the manifestos of the “mainstream” political parties. They were only vying with each other in throwing crumbs to the people from the high table of loot – luring them with ‘three rupee rice’, ‘two rupee rice’, and finally even ‘one rupee rice’! But any one who visited the Dantewada or Konta constituencies in the buildup to the elections could see that the election there was being fought like a referendum on Salwa Judum and land acquisition for companies. I quote from the newspaper Nai Dunia of 7/11/2008: “Shri Karma has not been able to start his campaign in the Naxal stronghold areas of Katekalyan and Kuakonda, even the BJP candidate Bhimram Mandavi has not plucked up the courage to go there. On the contrary, under the banner of the Adivasi Mahasabha, Shri Kunjam has been successful in reaching his message. He is the national President of the Adivasi Mahasabha and by going to jail in the matter of giving land to the Tata industrial group, he has earned considerable sympathy. Famed as “Bastar Tiger”, Mahendra Karma, though he is an adivasi, is considered a leader of the non-adivasis. But some incidents of the recent past have spoiled this image of his. Similarly his efforts to persuade the adivasis of Bhansi and Dhurli to give their lands to the Essar industrial group may cost him dear.” The defeat of the powerful sitting MLA Mahendra Karma does of course signal the unpopularity of the Salwa Judum he headed and also the land acquisitions of Tata and Essar which he personally tried to push through. And this was despite not only muscle power but even money power. He was caught on camera bribing an adivasi woman, and had quickly signalled to a man carrying a sack of cash to scoot! But how then, did the BJP candidate, who was nowhere in the running, defeat such an obviously popular candidate as Manish Kunjam? The Citizens for Peace and Justice in Chhattisgarh had expressed apprehensions in their letter to the Election Commission of India regarding electoral rolls being prepared in camps and therefore the possibility of fraudulent voting: “According to recent media reports Government of Chhattisgarh claims that more than 57,000 people are living in these camps and their names are getting included in the electoral rolls for the camps. As per reports we have received from local civil society members and fact findings done by CPJC members, majority of people who were living in these relief camps have gone back to their homes in their respective villages. According to our information the number of residents in camps is not more than 10,000. We are also aware of several other discrepancies existing in the preparation of Electoral rolls: many names in from the voter’s list have been dropped and in some cases names of children aged 13-16 have been included in the names. Moreover, names of several people who have fled to Andhra Pradesh and other neighbouring states have been added or maintained in the electoral rolls of Salwa Judum camps when they never lived there. We are afraid that this will inevitably result in fraud voting while the citizens themselves are deprived of their right to vote. According to media reports Communist Party of India has also raised their objection with you on similar points. They have informed that 50 polling booths in Bijapur and 92 polling booths in Dantewada have not been inspected by Election Commission. They feel the inspection staff have refused to do their duty, probably due to threats from Salwa Judum.” Recently Advocate Pratap Narayan Agrawal preferred a letter petition in the High Court of Chhattisgarh alleging that the election was neither free nor fair, “9.From the preparation of voters’ list, photo-identity card and polling in booth is a story of abuse of power and connivance of public servants with money-muscle- mafia candidates. The election commission abused its’ power in firstly declaring that in absence of photo-identity- card the voters will be allowed to cast their votes if they have any of the other 29 proof of their identity, but suddenly the election commission debarred the voters of Dantewada and Konta-Sukma constituency who had no voters’-identity card. The commission’s agency failed to update and issue voters’ identity-card to each of the Indian citizen voter. Thus, the conduct of election was neither free nor fair nor constitutional. 10. The commission failed to make arrangements for security of voters from naxals and other anti-law; is clear from the incident of voting thrice in village ” G O G U N D A ‘ in Konta-constituency. The fear and insecurity amongst voter is proofed by the fact that only 10 voters cast their vote against the roll of 711 voters. The election-party many a times did not go the booth and made false documents of voting. The election-machinery cared and busy only to protect the election-party, they did not care to secure the voters. Thus, the election in Konta, Dantewada, Kanker, Keshkal, Narayanpur constituency were neither free nor fair nor secure nor constitutionally achieved. 11. The very fact that Collector and District Returning officer with superintendent police Dantewada having reported against the election-observer; and the observer having reported against them for corrupt practices is a proof of conduct of illegal elections. 12. The very fact that the Chief Election Officer of Chhattisgarh election commission Dr.Alok Shukla reported of non-cooperation by Director General Police and his subordinates and the District Returning officers, is a proof of conduct of elections in unfair and unfree and illegal and insecure manner. 13. The very fact that Commissioner of Bastar Ganesh Shankar Mishra, Collector of Raipur Sonmani Bora and collector of Kanker Pisda were transferred for free and fair elections, indicates unfree and unfair involvement of public-servants. 14. The fact that many of the officers were not relieved from duty despite instructions of election commission and some of them relieved on my notice, is a proof of unfair and unfree and corrupt and abusive-power involvement of public servants in conduct of elections. None of the erring public-servant is punished is the prove of their criminal conspiracy with political parties” In fact, some poll parties and security parties have already been prosecuted for election malpractices by the Election Commission in Rajnandgaon and Kanker districts. 11 persons are in jail in Rajnandgaon pending trial. This poll party had never gone to the booth but had sat in the fields and pressed the EVM buttons, and “cast” 104% of the votes – all for the BJP! The Congress candidate from Bhanupratappur – Manturam Pawar has filed an election petition alleging that goons of the BJP candidate (now Minister) Vikram Usendi had terrorized and chased away all the voters at one of the booths and pressed the EVM buttons 504 times in favour of the BJP. There have been dozens of cases of more than 100% voting and even more where votes were cast only for the BJP. Besides when we recall that the votes in the camps could hardly have been cast freely and that votes of government servants were ostensibly “cast by post”, it is not difficult to understand how the BJP might have won. Recently the papers in Chhattisgarh were blazing headlines – “NHRC gives a clean chit to Salwa Judum”, referring to the enquiry made on the directions of the Supreme Court. Of course the NHRC had acted in a typical “police” fashion, traveled to villages in anti-land mine vehicles with SJ leaders and alleged perpetrators as translators and guides, and could not even protect the few villagers who were brave enough to depose before it. Yet the recommendatory chapter of its report begins by noting that the Salwa Judum movement has now lost its momentum, and suggests that efforts should be made to rehabilitate the remaining camp inmates. It recommends that village wise lists of missing persons be made, atrocities be investigated and villagers be encouraged to lodge FIRs, that all losses due to loot and arson be compensated irrespective of perpetrators (read “even if non-naxalites”), that paramilitary forces stop using school buildings, that corruption in camps be strictly checked, that security forces be trained to avoid human rights violations, that a more humane transfer policy be put in place to relieve them, and that rather than a security-centric approach efforts be made to address socio-economic deprivation. Dilute as they may be, could these recommendations, which are practically a vindication of the allegations of human rights groups, be described as a “clean chit”? Well, so thinks the Public Relations Department of the Government! And so that is the Truth (with a capital T) in current vogue in Chhattisgarh. In other words, after all that effort, we are back to square one. Not recognising the people’s brave resistance. Missing the forest for the trees. For the State in Chhattisgarh, there are no adivasi people, it only recognises “Maoists” or “victims of Naxal violence”. People have been speaking. But has anyone been listening? On 5 November 2007, about 2 lakh adivasis gathered at Jagdalpur in a rally organized under the aegis of the Adivasi Mahasabha. When we went as a team of the CMM we saw that at the venue – the huge Jadgalpur stadium – there was not a single matador, truck or bus. All the participants had come walking, some had left their villages 3-4 days before the event, carrying rice and their own fuel wood. Their slogans – “Stop Salwa Judum”, “Stop giving adivasi lands to companies”, “Down with Mahendra Karma.” Huge winding rallies poured into the city from all directions. We were surprised to see an Air Force plane hovering sinisterly overhead, making an airborne survey? A similar rally at Dantewada on 14 November 2006 had been denied permission by the Collector Dantewada in the name of a by-election taking place in the Bilaspur district more than 500 kilometres away! The High Court had struck down the order of the Collector and permitted the rally. Despite all-out efforts by the Salwa Judum leaders and the police and para-military to obstruct and threaten, the participants of the rally did arrive at Dantewada, 50,000 of them, to oppose the land acquisition by Tata and Essar, and to oppose the massive displacement of adivasis in the name of Salwa Judum. It is interesting that despite all the government support, Salwa Judum has never been able to muster such mobilisations. And that is not all. Six months ago hundreds of tribals had demonstrated at the district headquarters of Bijapur, protesting that CRPF jawans posted at a relief camp in the interior village of Cherpal had fired at camp residents, killing a two-year-old boy, Raju, and a woman, Ram Bai, 25. They had demanded the recall of CRPF from the village. And at Nakulnar…… At Bhansi……..At Kondagaon….. At Lohandiguda…….At Santoshpur…….At Singhavaram………. Yet unfortunately, for the civil society too, the adivasi people are only victims, “ground between two stones”, “caught in the crossfire”, “those whose only crime is to be neutral.” We have been appealing to the democratic institutions – the Executive headed by the Collector and the Governor in the Scheduled Areas; the Judiciary headed by the Chief Justices of the Supreme Court and High Court; the National and State Human Rights Commissions, and the special committees set up to monitor the status of the scheduled tribes and the scheduled areas; the national and local media; political parties of all hues. After many undaunted efforts, not to be belittled in the least, there has been a small stir. But small, far too small, in comparison with the dimensions of the human tragedy. But the NHRC is right about the fact that the Salwa Judum has lost its momentum. Now the operations are clearly police-CRPF-IRB operations. A large number of the “pakka” SJ recruits have been absorbed as “Special Police Officers” – the lowly paid (yet by adivasi standards getting a royal sum of Rs. 1500 a month) youth who serve as the spy network, guide the police parties in the jungles and literally form the physical shield around the CRPF in each of the thanas. Recently the DGP Mr. Vishwaranjan stated that more than 1500 SPOs were discharged on grounds of indiscipline (euphemism for atrocities). The SP of Dantewada candidly admitted to the press in November 2008 that 80% of the inmates of the camps have returned to their villages and the newspapers of 19 January 2009 state that 11,000 more returned enmasse. When one recalls that there are 19 battalions of CRPF, not to mention Naga and Mizo IRBs, in Bastar and Dantewada, today, and that these security forces have been treating all those who refused to come to the camps as “Naxalites” and in fact forcibly bringing them back if they ran away, how did this happen? How has Salwa Judum been pushed back? The live telecasts of happenings in Singur and Nandigram have shown us what happens when people of 11-12 villages refuse to part with their lands. Now multiply this by 50. Think of the enormity of it – 644 villages, 3.5 lakh adivasis. The government figures say 50,000 are in the camps. Human rights organizations say another 50,000 have fled to Andhra Pradesh. Let us add another 50,000 for good measure. Even so, our arithmetic has failed. Where have 2 lakh adivasis vanished? Obviously into the jungle. And therefore by the government logic – they are Maoists? It is these adivasis who have been declared outlaw, who are being cordoned off by the security forces, who are being deliberately starved of food and medicines by the withdrawal of health services and ration shops. These adivasis, whose crops are repeatedly burnt when they try to sow them in the abandoned villages. These adivasis who have to walk kilometers and kilometers to a local bazaar to avoid being “identified” as a Naxal by the Salwa Judum (or now the local SPO) and beaten, arrested or even killed. They who are swelling the overcrowded jails of Dantewada, Jagdalpur and Kanker, accused of “offences by unknown Maoists” – serving a sentence even before trial, for the word “bail” is unknown in the legal lexicon of Dantewada. Trials from which everyone knows they can only be acquitted for there are no witnesses, and no complainants, and most of time no co-accused either. But it is also these adivasis who have refused to go the camps, who have repeatedly tried to return to their villages, who have sown their crops knowing that they might be destroyed by the Salwa Judum and CRPF, who have also been fighting to save their fields, their homes, their villages. And yes, how can we deny it, they have resisted the Salwa Judum, the police, the CRPF physically with their traditional weapons. And again, it is undeniable, that the Maoists have supported them. It is these adivasi people who have bravely created the conditions for those held in virtual detention in the camps to return home. It is they who are refusing to hand over their lands, their forests, to the rich global mining interests who are waiting in the wings. It is they who have pushed back a brutal campaign like Salwa Judum. Can we refuse to recognise this brave resistance only because we may be ‘labelled’? Today’s imperialist onslaught is a desperate attempt to overcome crisis. And the masses of people refuse to be the sacrificial goat. The ferocious aggression of imperialist capital, especially from the US, has to be seen in the light of the economic crisis impending since the 1990’s, that has erupted now in 2008. This final economic meltdown has exploded many a myth about the illusory ‘free market economy’ and we are seeing the naked collusion between finance capital and their imperialist governments. The ‘free market’ is for the devastation of lakhs of peasants, and the ‘bail-outs and subsidies’ are for the big capital. Even the mainstream economists like Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman and many others have been demonstrating that, especially in the last decade, the US has been consuming vast resources at the expense of the developing countries such as China, India and Russia etc. This has been done largely through its unique position by way of issuing dollars to reduce its mega-deficit and making the poor countries pay for its consumerist extravaganza. According to a New York Times article, since 2001, the US debt has grown by $1.7 trillion. Foreigners financed 75 percent – about $1.3 trillion – of this, China alone bears one-fourth the burden. So, we see that the plight of the Indian peasants or that of the small industries is not a natural phenomenon, but a direct consequence of ruthless loot by the desperate imperialists. But with all this loot, they could only postpone the collapse of their economy, and finally by 2008, the crisis caught up with them. A word of caution. By economic analysis alone, without an all sided study of our times we can never get to the whole of the truth, more importantly to that truth, which guides us to work to change the wretched conditions of our world, beyond mere interpretations. If we carefully think over the whole sequence of the events, we can figure out that had George Bush succeeded in taming the Iraqi people in a time period of three to six months, then he could have proceeded to conquer Iran and could have got hold of vast oil resources cheaply. In that situation the imperialists could have postponed the crash for another decade. This is what they had calculated. The people of the oppressed world thought otherwise. At the cost of untold sufferings and sacrifices, the march of the armed might of US imperialism has been brought to a grinding halt. After Korea and Vietnam, the people of Iraq have shown that imperialism is indeed a paper tiger. The moral of the story is that we have to go beyond interpretation, work for change, come out and organize the struggle to defeat the plunderer imperialists. At this historic juncture of world wide economic crisis, what is the state of affairs in our country? What are the politicians of every major political party and the ruling bureaucrats doing? Of course they are working to save the country, to save the economy from the crisis. The country is – Tata, Ambani, Jindal, Jaiprakash, DLF, Indiabull, Essar, Birla, Holcim, Lafarge, ITC etc. etc. and the vast people are their subjects. More than 60,000 crores have been injected. More may be needed. After all the country has to be saved from the economic crisis. The crisis is of the demand side. So demand has to be boosted. Excise duty has been cut across the board. Mobikes are cheaper by 4000, cars by 20-40,000. Banks have been instructed to disburse loans to boost the consumer market. Come on citizens, the country has to be saved, the economy has to be saved, tighten your belts. How can they give bonus, there is an economic slowdown. Wages less than half the legal minimum? You should understand, it is a crisis. Everyone has to do their bit. The country is taking upon itself the burden of carrying package after package, the citizens should chip in with a bit of overtime and a bit of unemployment. And peasants, yesterday, you were to contribute your land for development, today to save the country from economic crisis. Are you not to be expected to make that contribution at the altar of country? You see, we are all one. The government of economists is leading us. We are in safe hands. Just a minute. The crisis is of the demand side. Then, can’t the demand be boosted by paying bonus to the workers, by paying full wages and even giving a raise, by providing employment to all with a living wage (and not a starvation wage as under NREGA)? Imagine the boost to the demand when 77% of our people earning less than Rs. 20 a day start earning a minimum wage of say Rs 100 a day? By constructing decent hospitals for the 80% of population that doesn’t have them? By providing for construction of houses with toilets for every family? To boost the demand and save the economy, isn’t it logical to have a moratorium on the constructions of malls and all other extravaganza before the whole population is provided with these essentials? Or is it that only when malls and flyovers are constructed, the demand for the steel and cement industries is boosted and when hospitals and houses and toilets are constructed, it is not? The logic of economics is absolutely clear in this matter. That in fact demand can only be boosted in this manner. But how can finance capital even allow you to think this, leave alone propose action on this line? Ah! There is this political side to our economy. And our economist rulers are the agents of the supreme imperialists. Indeed the whole ruling class, the politicians, the big bureaucrats! It has recently been reported in the mainstream media that the black money stashed away by this ruling class in Swiss Banks was Rs. 1300 crore in 1984, it increased to Rs. 28,000 crores in 1997 and this amount had soared to a whopping Rs. 72,80,000 crores by the end of 2006.This amount is hundred times more than the much worshipped FII investments in the Indian stock market. In its crisis-ridden state, imperialist capital has become ferocious, like a real tiger in its old age. It has been waging an all out attack on the lives and livelihood of people. The crisis-ridden imperialists and its pliant state have been particularly aggressive in carrying out land grab and easing out the peasants from their land, lives and livelihood at an unprecedented scale. Kalinganagar, Singur, Nandigram, Midnapur, Koelkaro, Netrahat, Raigarh, Jashpur, Posco in Jagatsingpur, Tata in Lohandiguda & Essar in Bhansi in Bastar, and so many other places in Chhattisgarh and all over India. Displacement under Salwa Judum, as relocation under military strategy is the one of the most brutal instances. Imperialists consider the Maoist forces to be the most serious obstacle in the way of unbridled exploitation in Bastar and many other adivasi areas. To fight them, the state does not hesitate to carry out genocidal campaigns among the adivasi peoples. But the adivasi people are refusing to quietly surrender their lands, forests and resources to the imperialist loot machine and are bringing it to a grinding halt. So the representatives of the US imperialists have to be frequently present to see if the state is doing enough to protect their “long term interests” in the mineral rich hinterland of India. This interference in the affairs of our country cannot be allowed. The dalaal political class should be exposed before the whole people. True, the foundation of capitalism is laid on clearing the indegenous population through genocides in many continents, on blood and sweat labour of African slaves, colonial exploitation and plunder of India and most of the world. But that was centuries ago. For progress even in 21st century, can human civilization allow such a path of development? Can the degradation of the earth and civilization be halted without doing away with the present system of obscene inequalities? And can that happen without the toiling and exploited people, the wretched of the earth, taking away from the so obviously degraded, imperialist masters of today’s world the command of politics, economy, culture? It is the call of the hour – support the resistance of the adivasis in the resource-rich areas, join hands to come out and organize the anti-displacement struggle at the national level. Surely, we shall defeat the plunderer imperialists.

October 4, 2009

Bloggers organize international day of support for Burmese freedom

Filed under: News — movementofthought @ 7:40 am

[4th October 2007 was observed as “International Bloggers’ Day For Burma”. On that day, thousands of bloggers around the world refrained from blog posting and displayed ‘free burma’ banner on their blogs. On 28th September of that year, the junta in burma had blocked all public internet access and cell phone access in an attempt to prevent information about the military violent crackdown on protesting monks from getting out.

In order to show the solidarity with protesting Burmese people, two German college students launched a protest website – free-burma.org and the idea of “International Bloggers’ Day For Burma” came into existence.  This is a glorious example of cyberactivism when internet was effectively used for reporting the atrocities to the whole world and protesting the dictatorship.

In this article, James Wayne talked to Phillip Hausser who was one of the founder member of free-burma.org website. This article was originally published on http://www.ojr.org on 4th October 2007. – Editor]

 

  • A German website has declared Oct. 4 “Free Burma Day” as the Myanmar government continues its crackdown on citizens’ online reports.

By James Wayne

As the world awaits the U.N. briefing on this week’s peace talks in Myanmar, the chaos and violence on the ground ensues. The rising death toll is estimated in the hundreds, with injuries and arrests mounting by the day. But anyone outside the country’s borders is virtually in the dark as to how the situation is now unfolding.

That was not the case this time last week.

On Friday, Sept. 28, the Myanmar government effectively shut down all cell-phone and Internet communication, stunting a citizen-journalism movement that had itself drawn international recognition.

The state-controlled media in Myanmar has been tight-lipped, to say the least. Communication with international news organizations has been spotty, and soldiers continue to turn reporters away at the borders. The message has been clear: “Nothing to see here.”

But armed with cell phones, cameras and laptops, common citizens and protesters stepped in to expose the conflict in real time. Some ran blogs of their own. Many dispatched pictures and videos of police violence to off-shore bloggers and news sites. Either way, they loosened the government’s chokehold on communication.

Now, with the ebb and flow of information from within at a standstill, the offshore sites are left to sustain awareness. A brand-new site out of Germany, Free-Burma.org, calls on bloggers around the world to post a “Free Burma” awareness graphic on any posts today, Oct. 4. Organizer Philipp Hausser talked to us about “International Bloggers’ Day For Burma” and the impact of Myanmar’s citizen-journalist phenomenon.

Online Journalism Review: First off, can you tell me a little about the history of your site?

Phillip Hausser: The original idea came from a Blogger in Italy. The well-known German blogger Robert Basic had an idea “to do something” and asked what could be done. Many comments; different opinions. Everything was discussed in a Wiki and the idea of an international blogger day was born.

Christian Hahn [Hausser’s partner] and I found that this was a good idea to show the people in Burma our solidarity for their peaceful protests. To help the action to get better organized (the wiki was and is still very unorganized) we decided overnight to set up the domain and build a website.

OJR: And how have results been so far?

Hausser: It’s now in seven different languages, with an overwhelming success: Over 10,000 visitors came just in the first 24 hours, and over 30,000 visitors to date. The site [launched] Sunday.

The reason for so many visitors is a good working network. People spread the message within ours around the globe and many people joined.

And yes, the support was great! We reached many, many people in almost every country and had media coverage around the globe – all in 4 days.

Let’s see what happens on Oct. 4.

OJR: What sort of goals have you set for the site?

Hausser: The situation in Burma is getting more and more quiet in the last days; not because of a better situation, but because the military is trying to avoid any outgoing communication.

We want to keep this “burning topic” on top in the media. The bloody pictures are getting fewer every day, and the media are losing their interest to report about the topic. We want so set a peaceful sign to keep it on peoples’ minds.

OJR: Do you have a sense of how effective the government shutdown of Internet and cell-phone lines has been? How long did it take to figure out that outside communications had been halted?

Hausser: We/the bloggers realized very quickly that there was no more connection to Burma. Hours later the media spread the news. And yes, it was effective. Most blogs about Burma are written outside Burma (see our blog list on f-b.org). the blogs inside stopped refreshing and the remaining bloggers are afraid for their lives. They have taken pictures of themselves down from their blogs so the government can’t find them. Everybody there is in danger.

OJR: What are citizen journalists in Myanmar doing now to get information out of the country? Have they been able to get around the government barriers? If so, how?

Hausser: Not sure. But we know that it is not easy. They talk/write less about Burma every day. We try to stop that.

OJR: How are the off-shore blogs and sites like yours dealing with the block of information flow?

Hausser: To be honest, currently I’m more and more dealing with interviews and communication than working for the page. The response is overwhelming, more than we ever expected.

OJR: You’ve really tried to spread the word with Wiki, Digg, Facebook, Flickr, etc. How successful have those social media tools been in spreading awareness?

Hausser: Facebook is not directly connected with us, but they are promoting the action. Top referrers are Stumbleupon and ko-htike.blogspot.com. We used Flickr for the graphics collection, and the wiki as a democratic element to collect ideas, translations and everything else.

OJR: Finally, do you have a particular, numeric goal in mind for the big Burma blog day on Oct. 4?

Hausser: No, nothing. The visitor counter is growing very rapidly, as are subscriptions (see the news page for updates). But like I said: This is more than we ever expected, and no one knows what’s going on today/tomorrow. But I’m sure it will be a lot!

October 3, 2009

Political Islam in the Service of Imperialism-by Samir Amin

Filed under: Politics — movementofthought @ 7:04 am

This is an exciting article by samir amin..it shows the link between imperialism and islam..its the hot debate going on these days..this article was originally published in monthly review…Editor

All the currents that claim adherence to political Islam proclaim the “specificity of Islam.” According to them, Islam knows nothing of the separation between politics and religion, something supposedly distinctive of Christianity. It would accomplish nothing to remind them, as I have done, that their remarks reproduce, almost word for word, what European reactionaries at the beginning of the nineteenth century (such as Bonald and de Maistre) said to condemn the rupture that the Enlightenment and the French Revolution had produced in the history of the Christian West!

On the basis of this position, every current of political Islam chooses to conduct its struggle on the terrain of culture—but “culture” reduced in actual fact to the conventional affirmation of belonging to a particular religion. In reality, the militants of political Islam are not truly interested in discussing the dogmas that form religion. The ritual assertion of membership in the community is their exclusive preoccupation. Such a vision of the reality of the modern world is not only distressing because of the immense emptiness of thought that it conceals, but it also justifies imperialism’s strategy of substituting a so-called conflict of cultures for the one between imperialist centers and dominated peripheries. The exclusive emphasis on culture allows political Islam to eliminate from every sphere of life the real social confrontations between the popular classes and the globalized capitalist system that oppresses and exploits them. The militants of political Islam have no real presence in the areas where actual social conflicts take place and their leaders repeat incessantly that such conflicts are unimportant. Islamists are only present in these areas to open schools and health clinics. But these are nothing but works of charity and means for indoctrination. They are not means of support for the struggles of the popular classes against the system responsible for their poverty.

On the terrain of the real social issues, political Islam aligns itself with the camp of dependent capitalism and dominant imperialism. It defends the principle of the sacred character of property and legitimizes inequality and all the requirements of capitalist reproduction. The support by the Muslim Brotherhood in the Egyptian parliament for the recent reactionary laws that reinforce the rights of property owners to the detriment of the rights of tenant farmers (the majority of the small peasantry) is but one example among hundreds of others. There is no example of even one reactionary law promoted in any Muslim state to which the Islamist movements are opposed. Moreover, such laws are promulgated with the agreement of the leaders of the imperialist system. Political Islam is not anti-imperialist, even if its militants think otherwise! It is an invaluable ally for imperialism and the latter knows it. It is easy to understand, then, that political Islam has always counted in its ranks the ruling classes of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Moreover, these classes were among its most active promoters from the very beginning. The local comprador bourgeoisies, the nouveaux riches, beneficiaries of current imperialist globalization, generously support political Islam. The latter has renounced an anti-imperialist perspective and substituted for it an “anti-Western” (almost “anti-Christian”) position, which obviously only leads the societies concerned into an impasse and hence does not form an obstacle to the deployment of imperialist control over the world system.

Political Islam is not only reactionary on certain questions (notably concerning the status of women) and perhaps even responsible for fanatic excesses directed against non-Muslim citizens (such as the Copts in Egypt)—it is fundamentally reactionary and therefore obviously cannot participate in the progress of peoples’ liberation.

Three major arguments are nevertheless advanced to encourage social movements as a whole to enter into dialogue with the movements of political Islam. The first is that political Islam mobilizes numerous popular masses, which cannot be ignored or scorned. Numerous images certainly reinforce this claim. Still, one should keep a cool head and properly assess the mobilizations in question. The electoral “successes” that have been organized are put into perspective as soon as they are subjected to more rigorous analyses. I mention here, for example, the huge proportion of abstentions—more than 75 percent!—in the Egyptian elections. The power of the Islamist street is, in large part, simply the reverse side of the weaknesses of the organized left, which is absent from the spheres in which current social conflicts are occurring.

Even if it were agreed that political Islam actually mobilizes significant numbers, does that justify concluding that the left must seek to include political Islamic organizations in alliances for political or social action? If political Islam successfully mobilizes large numbers of people, that is simply a fact, and any effective political strategy must include this fact in its considerations, proposals, and options. But seeking alliances is not necessarily the best means to deal with this challenge. It should be pointed out that the organizations of political Islam—the Muslim Brotherhood in particular—are not seeking such an alliance, indeed even reject it. If, by chance, some unfortunate leftist organizations come to believe that political Islamic organizations have accepted them, the first decision the latter would make, after having succeeded in coming to power, would be to liquidate their burdensome ally with extreme violence, as was the case in Iran with the Mujahideen and the Fidayeen Khalq.

The second reason put forward by the partisans of “dialogue” is that political Islam, even if it is reactionary in terms of social proposals, is “anti-imperialist.” I have heard it said that the criterion for this that I propose (unreserved support for struggles carried out for social progress) is “economistic” and neglects the political dimensions of the challenge that confronts the peoples of the South. I do not believe that this critique is valid given what I have said about the democratic and national dimensions of the desirable responses for handling this challenge. I also agree that in their response to the challenge that confronts the peoples of the South, the forces in action are not necessarily consistent in their manner of dealing with its social and political dimensions. It is, thus, possible to imagine a political Islam that is anti-imperialist, though regressive on the social plane. Iran, Hamas in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and certain resistance movements in Iraq immediately come to mind. I will discuss these particular situations later. What I contend is that political Islam as a whole is quite simply not anti-imperialist but is altogether lined up behind the dominant powers on the world scale.

The third argument calls the attention of the left to the necessity of combating Islamophobia. Any left worthy of the name cannot ignore the question des banlieues, that is, the treatment of the popular classes of immigrant origin in the metropolises of contemporary developed capitalism. Analysis of this challenge and the responses provided by various groups (the interested parties themselves, the European electoral left, the radical left) lies outside the focus of this text. I will content myself with expressing my viewpoint in principle: the progressive response cannot be based on the institutionalization of communitarianism,* which is essentially and necessarily always associated with inequality, and ultimately originates in a racist culture. A specific ideological product of the reactionary political culture of the United States, communitarianism (already triumphant in Great Britain) is beginning to pollute political life on the European continent. Islamophobia, systematically promoted by important sections of the political elite and the media, is part of a strategy for managing community diversity for capital’s benefit, because this supposed respect for diversity is, in fact, only the means to deepen divisions within the popular classes.
* A political theory based on “collective cultural identities” as central to understanding dynamic social reality.—Ed.

The question of the so-called problem neighborhoods (banlieues) is specific and confusing it with the question of imperialism (i.e., the imperialist management of the relations between the dominant imperialist centers and the dominated peripheries), as is sometimes done, will contribute nothing to making progress on each of these completely distinct terrains. This confusion is part of the reactionary toolbox and reinforces Islamphobia, which, in turn, makes it possible to legitimize both the offensive against the popular classes in the imperialist centers and the offensive against the peoples of the peripheries concerned. This confusion and Islamophobia, in turn, provide a valuable service to reactionary political Islam, giving credibility to its anti-Western discourse. I say, then, that the two reactionary ideological campaigns promoted, respectively, by the racist right in the West and by political Islam mutually support each other, just as they support communitarian practices.

Modernity, Democracy, Secularism, and Islam

The image that the Arab and Islamic regions give of themselves today is that of societies in which religion (Islam) is at the forefront in all areas of social and political life, to the point that it appears strange to imagine that it could be different. The majority of foreign observers (political leaders and the media) conclude that modernity, perhaps even democracy, will have to adapt to the strong presence of Islam, de facto precluding secularism. Either this reconciliation is possible and it will be necessary to support it, or it is not and it will be necessary to deal with this region of the world as it is. I do not at all share this so-called realist vision. The future—in the long view of a globalized socialism—is, for the peoples of this region as for others, democracy and secularism. This future is possible in these regions as elsewhere, but nothing is guaranteed and certain, anywhere.

Modernity is a rupture in world history, initiated in Europe during the sixteenth century. Modernity proclaims that human beings are responsible for their own history, individually and collectively, and consequently breaks with the dominant pre-modern ideologies. Modernity, then, makes democracy possible, just as it demands secularism, in the sense of separation of the religious and the political. Formulated by the eighteenth century Enlightenment, implemented by the French Revolution, the complex association of modernity, democracy, and secularism, its advances and retreats, has been shaping the contemporary world ever since. But modernity by itself is not only a cultural revolution. It derives its meaning only through the close relation that it has with the birth and subsequent growth of capitalism. This relation has conditioned the historic limits of “really existing” modernity. The concrete forms of modernity, democracy, and secularism found today must, then, be considered as products of the concrete history of the growth of capitalism. They are shaped by the specific conditions in which the domination of capital is expressed—the historical compromises that define the social contents of hegemonic blocs (what I call the historical course of political cultures).

This condensed presentation of my understanding of the historical materialist method is evoked here simply to situate the diverse ways of combining capitalist modernity, democracy, and secularism in their theoretical context.

The Enlightenment and the French Revolution put forward a model of radical secularism. Atheist or agnostic, deist or believer (in this case Christian), the individual is free to choose, the state knows nothing about it. On the European continent—and in France beginning with the Restoration—the retreats and compromises which combined the power of the bourgeoisie with that of the dominant classes of the pre-modern systems were the basis for attenuated forms of secularism, understood as tolerance, without excluding the social role of the churches from the political system. As for the United States, its particular historical path resulted in the forming of a fundamentally reactionary political culture, in which genuine secularism is practically unknown. Religion here is a recognized social actor and secularism is confused with the multiplicity of official religions (any religion—or even sect—is official).

There is an obvious link between the degree of radical secularism upheld and the degree of support for shaping society in accord with the central theme of modernity. The left, be it radical or even moderate, which believes in the effectiveness of politics to orient social evolution in chosen directions, defends strong concepts of secularism. The conservative right claims that things should be allowed to evolve on their own whether the question is economic, political, or social. As to economy the choice in favor of the “market” is obviously favorable to capital. In politics low-intensity democracy becomes the rule, alternation is substituted for alternative. And in society, in this context, politics has no need for active secularism—“communities” compensate for the deficiencies of the state. The market and representative democracy make history and they should be allowed to do so. In the current moment of the left’s retreat, this conservative version of social thought is widely dominant, in formulations that run the gamut from those of Touraine to those of Negri. The reactionary political culture of the United States goes even further in negating the responsibility of political action. The repeated assertion that God inspires the “American” nation, and the massive adherence to this “belief,” reduce the very concept of secularism to nothing. To say that God makes history is, in fact, to allow the market alone to do it.

From this point of view, where are the peoples of the Middle East region situated? The image of bearded men bowed low and groups of veiled women give rise to hasty conclusions about the intensity of religious adherence among individuals. Western “culturalist” friends who call for respect for the diversity of beliefs rarely find out about the procedures implemented by the authorities to present an image that is convenient for them. There are certainly those who are “crazy for God” (fous de Dieu). Are they proportionally more numerous than the Spanish Catholics who march on Easter? Or the vast crowds who listen to televangelists in the United States?

In any case, the region has not always projected this image of itself. Beyond the differences from country to country, a large region can be identified that runs from Morocco to Afghanistan, including all the Arab peoples (with the exception of those in the Arabian peninsula), the Turks, Iranians, Afghans, and peoples of the former Soviet Central Asian republics, in which the possibilities for the development of secularism are far from negligible. The situation is different among other neighboring peoples, the Arabs of the peninsula or the Pakistanis.

In this larger region, political traditions have been strongly marked by the radical currents of modernity: the ideas of the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and the communism of the Third International were present in the minds of everyone and were much more important than the parliamentarianism of Westminster, for example. These dominant currents inspired the major models for political transformation implemented by the ruling classes, which could be described, in some of their aspects, as forms of enlightened despotism.

This was certainly the case in the Egypt of Mohammed Ali or Khedive Ismail. Kemalism in Turkey and modernization in Iran were similar. The national populism of more recent stages of history belongs to the same family of modernist political projects. The variants of the model were numerous (the Algerian National Liberation Front, Tunisian Bourguibism, Egyptian Nasserism, the Baathism of Syria and Iraq), but the direction of movement was analogous. Apparently extreme experiences—the so-called communist regimes in Afghanistan and South Yemen—were really not very different. All these regimes accomplished much and, for this reason, had very wide popular support. This is why, even though they were not truly democratic, they opened the way to a possible development in this direction. In certain circumstances, such as those in Egypt from 1920 to 1950, an experiment in electoral democracy was attempted, supported by the moderate anti-imperialist center (the Wafd party), opposed by the dominant imperialist power (Great Britain) and its local allies (the monarchy). Secularism, implemented in moderate versions, to be sure, was not “refused” by the people. On the contrary, it was religious people who were regarded as obscurantists by general public opinion, and most of them were.
The modernist experiments, from enlightened despotism to radical national populism, were not products of chance. Powerful movements that were dominant in the middle classes created them. In this way, these classes expressed their will to be viewed as fully-fledged partners in modern globalization. These projects, which can be described as national bourgeois, were modernist, secularizing and potential carriers of democratic developments. But precisely because these projects conflicted with the interests of dominant imperialism, the latter fought them relentlessly and systematically mobilized declining obscurantist forces for this purpose.

The history of the Muslim Brotherhood is well known. It was literally created in the 1920s by the British and the monarchy to block the path of the democratic and secular Wafd. Their mass return from their Saudi refuge after Nasser’s death, organized by the CIA and Sadat, is also well known. We are all acquainted with the history of the Taliban, formed by the CIA in Pakistan to fight the “communists” who had opened the schools to everyone, boys and girls. It is even well known that the Israelis supported Hamas at the beginning in order to weaken the secular and democratic currents of the Palestinian resistance.

Political Islam would have had much more difficulty in moving out from the borders of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan without the continual, powerful, and resolute support of the United States. Saudi Arabian society had not even begun its move out of tradition when petroleum was discovered under its soil. The alliance between imperialism and the traditional ruling class, sealed immediately, was concluded between the two partners and gave a new lease on life to Wahabi political Islam. On their side, the British succeeded in breaking Indian unity by persuading the Muslim leaders to create their own state, trapped in political Islam at its very birth. It should be noted that the theory by which this curiosity was legitimated—attributed to Mawdudi—had been completely drawn up beforehand by the English Orientalists in His Majesty’s service.*
*The origin of the force of today’s political Islam in Iran does not show the same historical connection with imperialist manipulation, for reasons discussed in the next section.—Ed.

It is, thus, easy to understand the initiative taken by the United States to break the united front of Asian and African states set up at Bandung (1955) by creating an “Islamic Conference,” immediately promoted (from 1957) by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Political Islam penetrated into the region by this means.

The least of the conclusions that should be drawn from the observations made here is that political Islam is not the spontaneous result of the assertion of authentic religious convictions by the peoples concerned. Political Islam was constructed by the systematic action of imperialism, supported, of course, by obscurantist reactionary forces and subservient comprador classes. That this state of affairs is also the responsibility of left forces that neither saw nor knew how to deal with the challenge remains indisputable.

Questions Relative to the Front Line Countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, and Iran)

The project of the United States, supported to varying degrees by their subaltern allies in Europe and Japan, is to establish military control over the entire planet. With this prospect in mind, the Middle East was chosen as the “first strike” region for four reasons: (1) it holds the most abundant petroleum resources in the world and its direct control by the armed forces of the United States would give Washington a privileged position, placing its allies—Europe and Japan—and possible rivals (China) in an uncomfortable position of dependence for their energy supplies; (2) it is located at the crossroads of the Old World and makes it easier to put in place a permanent military threat against China, India, and Russia; (3) the region is experiencing a moment of weakness and confusion that allows the aggressor to be assured of an easy victory, at least for the moment; and (4) Israel’s presence in the region, Washington’s unconditional ally.

This aggression has placed the countries and nations located on the front line (Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, and Iran) in the particular situation of being destroyed (the first three) or threatened with destruction (Iran).

Afghanistan

Afghanistan experienced the best period in its modern history during the so-called communist republic. This was a regime of modernist enlightened despotism that opened up the educational system to children of both sexes. It was an enemy of obscurantism and, for this reason, had decisive support within the society. The agrarian reform that it had undertaken was, for the most part, a group of measures intended to reduce the tyrannical powers of tribal leaders. The support—at least tacitly—of the majority of the peasantry guaranteed the probable success of this well-begun change. The propaganda conveyed by the Western media as well as by political Islam presented this experiment as communist and atheist totalitarianism rejected by the Afghan people. In reality, the regime was far from being unpopular, much like Ataturk in his time.

The fact that the leaders of this experiment, in both of the major factions (Khalq and Parcham), were self-described as communists is not surprising. The model of the progress accomplished by the neighboring peoples of Soviet Central Asia (despite everything that has been said on the subject and despite the autocratic practices of the system) in comparison with the ongoing social disasters of British imperialist management in other neighboring countries (India and Pakistan included) had the effect, here as in many other countries of the region, of encouraging patriots to assess the full extent of the obstacle formed by imperialism to any attempt at modernization. The invitation extended by one faction to the Soviets to intervene in order to rid themselves of the others certainly had a negative effect and mortgaged the possibilities of the modernist national populist project.

The United States in particular and its allies of the Triad in general have always been tenacious opponents of the Afghan modernizers, communists or not. It is they who mobilized the obscurantist forces of Pakistan-style political Islam (the Taliban) and the warlords (the tribal leaders successfully neutralized by the so-called communist regime), and they who trained and armed them. Even after the Soviet retreat, the Najibullah government demonstrated the capability for resistance. It probably would have gained the upper hand but for the Pakistani military offensive that came to the support of the Taliban, and then the offensive of the reconstituted forces of the warlords, which increased the chaos.

Afghanistan was devastated by the intervention of the United States and its allies and agents, the Islamists in particular. Afghanistan cannot be reconstructed under their authority, barely disguised behind a clown without roots in the country, who was parachuted there by the Texas transnational by whom he was employed. The supposed “democracy,” in the name of which Washington, NATO, and the UN, called to the rescue, claim to justify the continuation of their presence (in fact, occupation), was a lie from the very beginning and has become a huge farce.

There is only one solution to the Afghan problem: all foreign forces should leave the country and all powers should be forced to refrain from financing and arming their allies. To those who are well-intended and express their fear that the Afghan people will then tolerate the dictatorship of the Taliban (or the warlords), I would respond that the foreign presence has been up until now and remains the best support for this dictatorship! The Afghan people had been moving in another direction—potentially the best possible—at a time when the West was forced to take less interest in its affairs. To the enlightened despotism of “communists,” the civilized West has always preferred obscurantist despotism, infinitely less dangerous for its interests!

Iraq

The armed diplomacy of the United States had the objective of literally destroying Iraq well before pretexts were actually given to it to do so on two different occasions: the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and then after September 11, 2001—exploited for this purpose by Bush with Goebbels-style cynicism and lies (“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it”). The reason for this objective is simple and has nothing to do with the discourse calling for the liberation of the Iraqi people from the bloody dictatorship (real enough) of Saddam Hussein. Iraq possesses a large part of the best petroleum resources of the planet. But, what is more, Iraq had succeeded in training scientific and technical cadres that were capable, through their critical mass, of supporting a coherent and substantial national project. This danger had to be eliminated by a preventive war that the United States gave itself the right to carry out when and where it decided, without the least respect for international law.

Beyond this obvious observation, several serious questions should be examined: (1) How could Washington’s plan appear—even for a brief historical moment—to be such a dazzling success so easily? (2) What new situation has been created and confronts the Iraqi nation today? (3) What responses are the various elements of the Iraqi population giving to this challenge? and (4) What solutions can the democratic and progressive Iraqi, Arab, and international forces promote?

Saddam Hussein’s defeat was predictable. Faced with an enemy whose main advantage lies in its capability to effect genocide with impunity by aerial bombardment (the use of nuclear weapons is to come), the people have only one possible effective response: carry out resistance on their invaded territory. Saddam’s regime was devoted to eliminating every means of defense within reach of its people through the systematic destruction of any organization and every political party (beginning with the Communist Party) that had made the history of modern Iraq, including the Baath itself, which had been one of the major actors in this history. It is not surprising in these conditions that the Iraqi people allowed their country to be invaded without a struggle, nor even that some behaviors (such as apparent participation in elections organized by the invader or the outburst of fratricidal fighting among Kurds, Sunni Arabs, and Shia Arabs) seemed to be signs of a possible acceptance of defeat (on which Washington had based its calculations). But what is worthy of note is that the resistance on the ground grows stronger every day (despite all of the serious weaknesses displayed by the various resistance forces), that it has already made it impossible to establish a regime of lackeys capable of maintaining the appearance of order; in a way, that it has already demonstrated the failure of Washington’s project.

A new situation has, nevertheless, been created by the foreign military occupation. The Iraqi nation is truly threatened. Washington is incapable of maintaining its control over the country (so as to pillage its petroleum resources, which is its number one objective) through the intermediary of a seeming national government. The only way it can continue its project, then, is to break the country apart. The division of the country into at least three states (Kurd, Sunni Arab, and Shia Arab) was, perhaps from the very beginning, Washington’s objective, in alignment with Israel (the archives will reveal the truth of that in the future). Today, the “civil war” is the card that Washington plays to legitimize the continuation of its occupation. Clearly, permanent occupation was—and remains—the objective: it is the only means by which Washington can guarantee its control of the petroleum resources. Certainly, no credence can be given to Washington’s declarations of intent, such as “we will leave the country as soon as order has been restored.” It should be remembered that the British never said of their occupation of Egypt, beginning in 1882, that it was anything other than provisional (it lasted until 1956!). Meanwhile, of course, the United States destroys the country, its schools, factories, and scientific capacities, a little more each day, using all means, including the most criminal.

The responses given by the Iraqi people to the challenge—so far, at least—do not appear to be up to facing the seriousness of the situation. That is the least that can be said. What are the reasons for this? The dominant Western media repeat ad nauseam that Iraq is an artificial country and that the oppressive domination of Saddam’s “Sunni” regime over the Shia and Kurds is the origin of the inevitable civil war (which can only be suppressed, perhaps, by continuing the foreign occupation).The resistance, then, is limited to a few pro-Saddam hard-core Islamists from the Sunni triangle. It is surely difficult to string together so many falsehoods.

Following the First World War, the British had great difficulty in defeating the resistance of the Iraqi people. In complete harmony with their imperial tradition, the British imported a monarchy and created a class of large landowners to support their power, thereby giving a privileged position to the Sunnis. But, despite their systematic efforts, the British failed. The Communist Party and the Baath Party were the main organized political forces that defeated the power of the “Sunni” monarchy detested by everyone, Sunni, Shia, and Kurd. The violent competition between these two forces, which occupied center stage between 1958 and 1963, ended with the victory of the Baath Party, welcomed at the time by the Western powers as a relief. The Communist project carried in itself the possibility for a democratic evolution; this was not true of the Baath. The latter was nationalist and pan-Arab in principle, admired the Prussian model for constructing German unity, and recruited its members from the secular, modernist petite bourgeoisie, hostile to obscurantist expressions of religion. In power, the Baath evolved, in predictable fashion, into a dictatorship that was only half anti-imperialist, in the sense that, depending on conjunctures and circumstances, a compromise could be accepted by the two partners (Baathist power in Iraq and U.S. imperialism, dominant in the region).

This deal encouraged the megalomaniacal excesses of the leader, who imagined that Washington would accept making him its main ally in the region. Washington’s support for Baghdad (the delivery of chemical weapons is proof of this) in the absurd and criminal war against Iran from 1980 to 1989 appeared to lend credence to this calculation. Saddam never imagined Washington’s deceit, that modernization of Iraq was unacceptable to imperialism and that the decision to destroy the country had already been made. Saddam fell into the open trap when the green light was given to annex Kuwait (in fact attached in Ottoman times to the provinces that constitute Iraq, and detached by the British imperialists in order to make it one of their petroleum colonies). Iraq was then subjected to ten years of sanctions intended to bleed the country dry so as to facilitate the glorious conquest of the resulting vacuum by the armed forces of the United States.

The successive Baathist regimes, including the last one in its declining phase under Saddam’s leadership, can be accused of everything, except for having stirred up the conflict between the Sunni and Shia. Who then is responsible for the bloody clashes between the two communities? One day, we will certainly learn how the CIA (and undoubtedly Mossad) organized many of these massacres. But, beyond that, it is true that the political desert created by the Saddam regime and the example that it provided of unprincipled opportunist methods encouraged succeeding aspirants to power of all kinds to follow this path, often protected by the occupier. Sometimes, perhaps, they were even naïve to the point of believing that they could be of service to the occupying power. The aspirants in question, be they religious leaders (Shia or Sunni), supposed (para-tribal) “notables,” or notoriously corrupt businessmen exported by the United States, never had any real political standing in the country. Even those religious leaders whom the believers respected had no political influence that was acceptable to the Iraqi people. Without the void created by Saddam, no one would know how to pronounce their names. Faced with the new political world created by the imperialism of liberal globalization, will other authentically popular and national, possibly even democratic, political forces have the means to reconstruct themselves?

There was a time when the Iraqi Communist Party was the focus for organizing the best of what Iraqi society could produce. The Communist Party was established in every region of the country and dominated the world of intellectuals, often of Shia origin (I note in passing that the Shia produced revolutionaries or religious leaders above all, rarely bureaucrats or compradors!). The Communist Party was authentically popular and anti-imperialist, little inclined to demagoguery and potentially democratic. After the massacre of thousands of its best militants by the Baathist dictatorships, the collapse of the Soviet Union (for which the Iraqi Communist Party was not prepared), and the behavior of those intellectuals who believed it acceptable to return from exile as camp followers of the armed forces of the United States, is the Iraqi Communist Party henceforth fated to disappear permanently from history? Unfortunately, this is all too possible, but not inevitable, far from it.

The Kurdish question is real, in Iraq as in Iran and Turkey. But on this subject also, it should be remembered that the Western powers have always practiced, with great cynicism, double standards. The repression of Kurdish demands has never attained in Iraq and Iran the level of police, military, political, and moral violence carried out by Ankara. Neither Iran nor Iraq has ever gone so far as to deny the very existence of the Kurds. However, Turkey must be pardoned for everything as a member of NATO, an organization of democratic nations, as the media remind us. Among the eminent democrats proclaimed by the West was Portugal’s Salazar, one of NATO’s founding members, and the no less ardent admirers of democracy, the Greek colonels and Turkish generals!

Each time that the Iraqi popular fronts, formed around the Communist Party and the Baath in the best moments of its turbulent history, exercised political power, they always found an area of agreement with the principal Kurdish parties. The latter, moreover, have always been their allies.
The anti-Shia and anti-Kurd excesses of the Saddam regime were certainly real: for example, the bombing of the Basra region by Saddam’s army after its defeat in Kuwait in 1990 and the use of gas against the Kurds. These excesses came in response to the maneuvers of Washington’s armed diplomacy, which had mobilized sorcerer’s apprentices among Shia and Kurds. They remain no less criminal excesses, and stupid, moreover, since the success of Washington’s appeals was quite limited. But can anything else be expected from dictators like Saddam?

The force of the resistance to foreign occupation, unexpected under these conditions, might seem to bemiraculous. This is not the case, since the basic reality is that the Iraqi people as a whole (Arab and Kurd, Sunni and Shia) detest the occupiers and are familiar with its crimes on a daily basis (assassinations, bombings, massacres, torture). Given this a united front of national resistance (call it what you want) might even be imagined, proclaiming itself as such, posting the names, lists of organizations, and parties composing it and their common program. This, however, is not actually the case up to the present for all of the reasons described above, including the destruction of the social and political fabric caused by the Saddam dictatorship and the occupation. Regardless of the reasons, this weakness is a serious handicap, which makes it easier to divide the population, encourage opportunists, even so far as making them collaborators, and throw confusion over the objectives of the liberation.

Who will succeed in overcoming these handicaps? The communists should be well placed to do so. Already, militants who are present on the ground are separating themselves from the leaders of the Communist Party (the only ones known by the dominant media) who, confused and embarrassed, are attempting to give a semblance of legitimacy to their rallying to the collaborationist government, even pretending that they are adding to the effectiveness of armed resistance by such action! But, under the circumstances, many other political forces could make decisive initiatives in the direction of forming this front.
It remains the case that, despite its weaknesses, the Iraqi people’s resistance has already defeated (politically if not yet militarily) Washington’s project. It is precisely this that worries the Atlanticists in the European Union, faithful allies of the United States. Today, they fear a U.S. defeat, because this would strengthen the capacity of the peoples of the South to force globalized transnational capital of the imperialist triad to respect the interests of the nations and peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

The Iraqi resistance has offered proposals that would make it possible to get out of the impasse and aid the United States to withdraw from the trap. It proposes: (1) formation of a transitional administrative authority set up with the support of the UN Security Council; (2) the immediate cessation of resistance actions and military and police interventions by occupying forces; (3) the departure of all foreign military and civilian authorities within six months. The details of these proposals have been published in the prestigious Arab review Al Moustaqbal al Arabi (January 2006), published in Beirut.

The absolute silence with which the European media oppose the dissemination of this message is a testament to the solidarity of the imperialist partners. Democratic and progressive European forces have the duty to dissociate themselves from this policy of the imperialist triad and support the proposals of the Iraqi resistance. To leave the Iraqi people to confront its opponent alone is not an acceptable option: it reinforces the dangerous idea that nothing can be expected from the West and its peoples, and consequently encourages the unacceptable—even criminal—excesses in the activities of some of the resistance movements.

The sooner the foreign occupation troops leave the country and the stronger the support by democratic forces in the world and in Europe for the Iraqi people, the greater will be the possibilities for a better future for this martyred people. The longer the occupation lasts, the more dismal will be the aftermath of its inevitable end.

Palestine

The Palestinian people have, since the Balfour Declaration during the First World War, been the victim of a colonization project by a foreign population, who reserve for them the fate of the “redskins,” whether one acknowledges it or pretends to be ignorant of it. This project has always had the unconditional support of the dominant imperialist power in the region (yesterday Great Britain, today the United States), because the foreign state in the region formed by that project can only be the unconditional ally, in turn, of the interventions required to force the Arab Middle East to submit to the domination of imperialist capitalism.

This is an obvious fact for all the peoples of Africa and Asia. Consequently, on both continents, they are spontaneously united on the assertion and defense of the rights of the Palestinian people. In Europe, however, the “Palestinian question” causes division, produced by the confusions kept alive by Zionist ideology, which is frequently echoed favorably.

Today more than ever, in conjunction with the implementation of the U.S. “Greater Middle East project,” the rights of the Palestinian people have been abolished. All the same, the PLO accepted the Oslo and Madrid plans and the roadmap drafted by Washington. It is Israel that has openly gone back on its agreement, and implemented an even more ambitious expansion plan. The PLO has been undermined as a result: public opinion can justly reproach it with having naively believed in the sincerity of its adversaries. The support provided by the occupation authorities to its Islamist adversary (Hamas), in the beginning, at least, and the spread of corrupt practices in the Palestinian administration (on which the fund donors—the World Bank, Europe, and the NGOs—are silent, if they are not party to it) had to lead to the Hamas electoral victory (it was predictable). This then became an additional pretext immediately put forward to justify unconditional alignment with Israeli policies no matter what they may be.

The Zionist colonial project has always been a threat, beyond Palestine, for neighboring Arab peoples. Its ambitions to annex the Egyptian Sinai and its effective annexation of the Syrian Golan are testimony to that. In the Greater Middle East project, a particular place is granted to Israel, to its regional monopoly of nuclear military equipment and its role as “indispensable partner” (under the fallacious pretext that Israel has technological expertise of which the Arab people are incapable. What an indispensable racism!).

It is not the intention here to offer analyses concerning the complex interactions between the resistance struggles against Zionist colonial expansion and the political conflicts and choices in Lebanon and Syria. The Baathist regimes in Syria have resisted, in their own way, the demands of the imperialist powers and Israel. That this resistance has also served to legitimize more questionable ambitions (control of Lebanon) is certainly not debatable. Moreover, Syria has carefully chosen the least dangerous allies in Lebanon. It is well known that the Lebanese Communist Party had organized resistance to the Israeli incursions in South Lebanon (diversion of water included). The Syrian, Lebanese, and Iranian authorities closely cooperated to destroy this dangerous base and replace it with Hezbollah. The assassination of Rafiq al-Harriri (a still unresolved case) obviously gave the imperialist powers (the United States in front, France behind) the opportunity to intervene with two objectives in mind: (1) force Damascus to align itself permanently with the vassal Arab states (Egypt and Saudi Arabia)—or, failing that, eliminate the vestiges of a deteriorated Baathist power; and (2) demolish what remains of the capability to resist Israeli incursions (by demanding the disarmament of Hezbollah). Rhetoric about democracy can be invoked within this context, if useful.

Today to accept the implementation of the Israeli project in progress is to ratify the abolition of the primary right of peoples: the right to exist. This is the supreme crime against humanity. The accusation of “anti-Semitism” addressed to those who reject this crime is only a means for appalling blackmail.

Iran

It is not our intention here to develop the analyses called for by the Islamic Revolution. Was it, as it has been proclaimed to be among supporters of political Islam as well as among foreign observers, the declaration of and point of departure for a change that ultimately must seize the entire region, perhaps even the whole Muslim world, renamed for the occasion the umma (the “nation,” which has never been)? Or was it a singular event, particularly because it was a unique combination of the interpretations of Shia Islam and the expression of Iranian nationalism?

From the perspective of what interests us here, I will only make two observations. The first is that the regime of political Islam in Iran is not by nature incompatible with integration of the country into the globalized capitalist system such as it is, since the regime is based on liberal principles for managing the economy. The second is that the Iranian nation as such is a “strong nation,” one whose major components, if not all, of both popular classes and ruling classes, do not accept the integration of their country into the globalized system in a dominated position. There is, of course, a contradiction between these two dimensions of the Iranian reality. The second one accounts for Teheran’s foreign policy tendencies, which bear witness to the will to resist foreign diktats.

It is Iranian nationalism—powerful and, in my opinion, altogether historically positive—that explains the success of the modernization of scientific, industrial, technological, and military capabilities undertaken by the Shah’s regime and the Khomeinist regime that followed. Iran is one of the few states of the South (with China, India, Korea, Brazil, and maybe a few others, but not many!) to have a national bourgeois project. Whether it be possible in the long term to achieve this project or not (my opinion is that it is not) is not the focus of our discussion here. Today this project exists and is in place.

It is precisely because Iran forms a critical mass capable of attempting to assert itself as a respected partner that the United States has decided to destroy the country by a new preventive war. As is well known, the conflict is taking place around the nuclear capabilities that Iran is developing. Why should not this country, just like others, have the right to pursue these capabilities, up to and including becoming a nuclear military power? By what right can the imperialist powers and their Israeli accomplice boast about granting themselves a monopoly over weapons of mass destruction? Can one give any credit to the discourse that argues that “democratic” nations will never make use of such weapons like “rogue states” could, when it is common knowledge that the democratic nations in question are responsible for the greatest genocides of modern times, including the one against the Jews, and that the United States has already used atomic weapons and still today rejects an absolute and general ban on their use?

Conclusion

Today, political conflicts in the region find three groups of forces opposed to one another: those that proclaim their nationalist past (but are, in reality, nothing more than the degenerate and corrupt inheritors of the bureaucracies of the national-populist era); those that proclaim political Islam; and those that are attempting to organize around “democratic” demands that are compatible with economic liberalism. The consolidation of power by any of these forces is not acceptable to a left that is attentive to the interests of the popular classes.In fact, the interests of the comprador classes affiliated with the current imperialist system are expressed through these three tendencies. U.S. diplomacy keeps all three irons in the fire, since it is focused on using the conflicts among them for its exclusive benefit. For the left to attempt to become involved in these conflicts solely through alliances with one or another of the tendencies* (preferring the regimes in place to avoid the worst, i.e., political Islam, or else seeking to be allied with the latter in order to get rid of the regimes) is doomed to fail. The left must assert itself by undertaking struggles in areas where it finds its natural place: defense of the economic and social interests of the popular classes, democracy, and assertion of national sovereignty, all conceptualized together as inseparable.
* Tactical alliances arising from the concrete situation are another matter, e.g., the joint action of the Lebanese Communist Party with Hezbollah in resisting the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the summer of 2006.—Ed.

The region of the Greater Middle East is today central in the conflict between the imperialist leader and the peoples of the entire world. To defeat the Washington establishment’s project is the condition for providing the possibility of success for advances in any region of the world. Failing that, all these advances will remain vulnerable in the extreme. That does not mean that the importance of struggles carried out in other regions of the world, in Europe or Latin America or elsewhere, should be underestimated. It means only that they should be part of a comprehensive perspective that contributes to defeating Washington in the region that it has chosen for its first criminal strike of this century

October 1, 2009

Author Arundhati Roy on the Human Costs of India’s Economic Growth

Filed under: Politics — movementofthought @ 4:06 pm

 

[In this interview, Arundhati Roy is talking to Amy Goodman about India’s conflict with Maoist rebels, the occupation of Kashmir, ongoing Indian-Pakistani tensions, Obama’s war in “Af-Pak,” and more, on Democracy Now channel. You can watch this interview at http://www.democracynow.org/2009/9/28/author_arundhati_roy_on_conflicts_and ]

We’re joined from the Indian capital of New Delhi by the Booker Prize-winning novelist, political essayist and global justice activist Arundhati Roy. Her books include the Booker Prize-winning novel The God of Small Things and her latest essay collection, Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers. We speak to Roy about India’s conflict with Maoist rebels, the occupation of Kashmir, ongoing Indian-Pakistani tensions, Obama’s war in “Af-Pak,” and more.

Guest: Arundhati Roy, world-renowned Indian author and global justice activist. Her first novel, The God of Small Things, won the Booker Prize in 1997. Since then she has written numerous essays on war, climate change and the dangers of free market development in India. Her new book, published today by Haymarket Books, is called Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers. An adapted introduction to the book is also posted on Tomdispatch.com._

AMY GOODMAN: We turn to a woman the New York Times calls India’s most impassioned critic of globalization and American influence, Arundhati Roy, world-renowned Indian author and global justice activist. Her first novel, The God of Small Things, won the Booker Prize in 1997. She has a new book; it’s called Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers. An adapted introduction to the book is posted at tomdispatch.com, called “What Have We Done to Democracy?” Arundhati Roy joins us now from New Delhi, India, on the country’s biggest national holiday of the year.

Arundhati, we welcome you to Democracy Now! And as you listen to this report from the streets of G-20 by our producer Steve Martinez, talk about globalization and what has happened to democracy.

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, that’s a huge subject, Amy. And I think my book—in my book, I discuss it in some detail in terms of what’s happening to India. But as we know now, because of the way the global economy is linked, countries are not—you know, the political systems in countries are also linked, so democracies are linked to dictatorships and military occupations and so on. We know that. We now that some of the main military occupations in the world today are actually administered by democracies: Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kashmir.

But what I think is beginning to be very clear now is that we see now that democracy is sort of fused to the free market, or to the idea of the free market. And so, its imagination has been limited to the idea of profit. And democracy, a few years ago, maybe, you know, even twenty-five years ago, was something that, let’s say, a country like America feared, which was why democracies were being toppled all over the place, like in Chile and so on. But now wars are being waged to restore—to place democracy, because democracy serves the free market, and each of the institutions in democracy, like you look at India, you know, whether it’s the Supreme—whether it’s the courts or whether it’s the media or whether it’s all the other institutions of democracy, they’ve been sort of hollowed out, and just their shells have been replaced, and we play out this charade. And it’s much more complicated for people to understand what’s going on, because there’s so much shadow play.

But really we are facing a crisis. And that’s what I ask. You know, is there life after democracy? And what kind of life will it be? Because democracy has been hollowed out and made meaningless. And when I say “democracy,” I’m not talking about the ideal. You know, I’m not saying that countries that live in dictatorships and under military occupation should not fight for democracy, because the early years of democracy are important and heady. And then we see a strange metastasis taking over.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Arundhati Roy. She’s joining us from New Delhi, India, the world-renowned author, global justice activist. Her book The God of Small Things won the Booker Prize, well known all over the world. Now she has written a new book. Today we will talk about it for the first time in the United States in a national broadcast, Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers. We’ll be back with her for the rest of the hour in a minute.

AMY GOODMAN: We continue with Arundhati Roy, speaking to us from New Delhi, India, talking about India, war and globalization. I’m here with co-host Anjali Kamat. Anjali?

ANJALI KAMAT: The Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers met in New York Sunday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting but failed to agree on a timetable for negotiations. Talks continue to be stalled by the fallout of the November 2008 attack on Mumbai that killed 163 people. India blames Pakistani militants for the attack and has emphasized the need for Pakistan to prosecute those responsible. The Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna told reporters he raised these concerns with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

    S.M. KRISHNA: As you are aware, we do have serious and continuing concerns about terrorist and extremist groups in Pakistan, which are—which are a national security risk for us and for our people. Foreign Minister Qureshi conveyed to me the seriousness of his government in bringing to book, through their legal process, those responsible for the terrorist outrage in Mumbai ten months ago.

 ANJALI KAMAT: Meanwhile, inside India, the focus has shifted to a different adversary. The stage is set for a major domestic military offensive against an armed group that the Indian prime minister has repeatedly called the country’s, quote, “gravest internal security threat.”

Operation Green Hunt will reportedly send between 75,000 and 100,000 troops to areas seen as Maoist strongholds in central and eastern India. In June, India labeled the Naxalite group, the Communist Party of India—Maoist—a terrorist organization, and earlier this month India’s home minister came to the United States to share counterterror strategies.

The Indian government blames the deaths of nearly 600 people this year on Maoist violence and claims that Maoist rebels are active in twenty out of the twenty-eight states in the country. The Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh outlined the threat to a conference of state police chiefs earlier this month.

    PRIME MINISTER MANMOHAN SINGH: In many ways, the left-wing extremism poses perhaps the gravest internal security threat our country faces. We have discussed this in the last five years. And I would like to state, frankly, that we have not achieved as much success as we would have liked in containing this menace.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, to help make sense of what’s unfolding inside the world’s largest democracy, we continue with the Booker Prize award-winning novelist, political essayist, global justice activist Arundhati Roy. She won the Lannan Cultural Freedom Prize in 2002. She’s the author of a number of collection of essays and the novel The God of Small Things. Her latest book is called Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers.

Can you make sense, Arundhati, of what is happening inside India for an audience around the world?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, let me just pick up on what Anjali was talking about just now, about the assault that’s planned on the so-called Maoists in central India. You know, when September 11th happened, I think some of us had already said that a time would come when poverty would be sort of collapsed and converge into terrorism. And this is exactly what’s happened. The poorest people in this country today are being called terrorists.

And what you have is a huge swath of forest in eastern and central India, spreading from West Bengal through the states of Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh. And in these forests live indigenous people. And also in these forests are the biggest deposits of bauxite and iron ore and so on, which huge multinational companies now want to get their hands on. So there’s an MoU [Memorandum of Understanding] on every mountain, on every forest and river in this area.

And about in 2005, let’s say, in central India, the day after the MoU was signed with the biggest sort of corporation in India, Tatas, the government also announced the formation of the Salwa Judum, which is a sort of people’s militia, which is armed and is meant to fight the Maoists in the forest. But the thing is, all this, the Salwa Judum as well as the Maoists, they’re all indigenous people. And in, let’s say, Chhattisgarh, something like the Salwa Judum has been a very cruel militia, you know, burning villages, raping women, burning food crops. I was there recently. Something like 640 villages have been burned. Out of the 350,000, first about 50,000 people moved into roadside police camps, from where this militia was raised by the government. And the rest are simply missing. You know, some are living in cities, you know, eking out a living. Others are just hiding in the forest, coming out, trying to sow their crops, and yet getting, you know, those crops burnt down, their villages burnt down. So there is a sort of civil war raging.

And now, I remember traveling in Orissa a few years ago, when there were not any Maoists, but there were huge sort of mining companies coming in to mine the bauxite. And yet, they kept—all the newspapers kept saying the Maoists are here, the Maoists are here, because it was a way of allowing the government to do a kind of military-style repression. Of course, now they’re openly saying that they want to call out the paramilitary.

And if you look at—for example, if you look at the trajectory of somebody like Chidambaram, who’s India’s home minister, he—you know, he’s a lawyer from Harvard. He was the lawyer for Enron, which pulled off the biggest scam in the history of—corporate scam in the history of India. We’re still suffering from that deal. After that, he was on the board of governors of what is today the biggest mining corporation in the world, called Vedanta, which is mining in Orissa. The day he became finance minister, he resigned from Vedanta. When he was the finance minister, in an interview he said that he would like 85 percent of India to live in cities, which means moving something like 500 million people. That’s the kind of vision that he has.

And now he’s the home minister, calling out the paramilitary, calling out the police, and really forcibly trying to move people out of their lands and homes. And anyone who resisted, whether they’re a Maoist or not a Maoist, are being labeled Maoist. People are being picked up, tortured. There are some laws that have been passed which should not exist in any democracy, laws which make somebody like me saying what I’m saying now to you a criminal offense, for which I could just be jailed. Even sort of thinking an anti-government thought has become illegal. And we’re talking about, you know, as you said, 75,000 to 100,000 security personnel going to war against people who, since independence, which was more than sixty years ago, have no schools, no hospitals, no running water, nothing. And now, now they’re being—now they’re being killed or imprisoned or just criminalized. You know, it’s like if you’re not in the Salwa Judum camp, then you’re a Maoist, and we can kill you. And they are openly celebrating the Sri Lanka solution to terrorism, to terrorism.

ANJALI KAMAT: Arundhati Roy, can you explain a little bit more about how India has so successfully hidden this side of it, this underbelly of democracy that you bring out in your book—murder, disappearances, torture, rapes, thousands—millions of people displaced, whether it’s for development projects or in the process of fighting wars, tens of thousands disappeared in Kashmir, the insurgency that’s being fought, the military that’s fighting the insurgency in the northeast? How is India, on a global stage, continues to be seen as this successful democracy, a place where investors are flooding to?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, precisely because it is a democracy for some of its citizens, you know? And so, in a way, it has—this whole system has somehow created an elite that is now suddenly enriched in the last, you know, twenty years since the advent of the corporate free market. We have a huge middle class that is hugely invested in this sort of a police—or, you know, a police state that isn’t acknowledged as one. So you have—it’s not just a small sort of coterie of generals, like in Burma, or a kind of military dictatorship that’s supported by the US in America. You have a huge constituency in this country that completely supports this whole enterprise, and you have a free media where 90 percent of the turnover of those media houses comes from corporate advertisements and so on. So they’re also free, but free to also embrace this particular model, in which, you know, a small section of people—well, not a small section; there are millions and millions of people, but they are not the majority of the people of this country. The light shines upon this rising middle class, which is, as I said, such a huge number that it’s a very, very attractive market for the whole world.

So, when India opens its markets, you know, because it has opened its markets, and because it’s—you know, international finance is flooding in, and all of that is so attractive, it is allowed to commit genocide in Gujarat; it’s allowed to commit civil war in the center; it’s allowed to have a military occupation in Kashmir, where you have 700,000 soldiers, you know, patrolling that little valley; it’s allowed to have laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in the northeast, which allows the army to just kill on suspicion. And yet, it’s celebrated. It’s allowed to displace millions of people, but yet it’s celebrated as this real success story, because it has all these institutions in place, even though they’ve been hollowed out.

So you have, for example, a Supreme Court in which there are very erudite judges, and there are some very erudite judgments, but if you look at how it’s actually functioning, it has hollowed out. To criticize the court is a criminal offense. And yet, you have judgments where a judge openly says something like—you know, that—I’ve forgotten the exact words, but how corporate—you know, a corporate company cannot basically commit anything illegal, cannot commit an illegal act, you know? Or you have a judge in court openly talking about, let’s say, Vedanta, which is mining in Orissa for bauxite. And the Norwegian government had pulled out of that project because of the human rights violations and so on; and, you know, for a whole lot of ethical reasons, they pulled out. And in India, you know, the company was taken to court, and a judge openly, in an open court, says that, “OK, we won’t give this contract to Vedanta. We’ll give it to Sterlite, because Sterlite is a very good company. I have shares in it,” omitting to mention that Sterlite is a subsidiary of Vedanta.

You know, but there’s so much fancy footwork. If it was a military dictator, they have would have just said, “Shut up” and “Vedanta will get the project.” But here, there are affidavits and counter-affidavits and a little bit of delay and everything; everyone thinks it’s democracy. You know, you have the Supreme Court hearing on, let’s say, the Parliament attack, where openly the Supreme Court of the world’s greatest democracy says, you know, on the one hand, “We don’t have evidence to prove that the person who was charged is—belongs to a terrorist group,” and a few paras later says, “but the collective conscience of society will only be satisfied if we sentence him to death.” And it’s just said so, blatantly, out there, you know? And you can’t criticize it, because it’s a criminal offense.

AMY GOODMAN: Arundhati Roy, talk about Kashmir. I think it’s something, certainly here in the United States, a conflict people understand very little.

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, Kashmir—Kashmir was an independent sort of kingdom in 1947 at the time of independence and partition. And when—I mean, just to cut a very complicated story short, when partition happened, both India and Pakistan fought over it and hived off parts of it, and both now have military presence in this divided Kashmir. But to give you some idea of the military presence, it’s—you know, let’s say the US has 165,000 troops in Iraq. India has 700,000 troops in Kashmir.

Kashmir used to have a Hindu king and a largely Muslim population, which was very, very backward and so on at the time, because at the time, you know, Muslims were discriminated against by that princely—in that princely state.

But now, for—I mean, in 1990, after a whole series of events, which culminated in a sort of fake election, a rigged election in 1987, there was an armed uprising in Kashmir. And really, since then, it’s been convulsed by militancy and military occupation, encounters, disappearances and so on. Last year, there was a—you know, last year, they began to say everything is normal, you know, tourists are going back to the valley. But, of course, that was just wishful thinking, because there was a huge nonviolent uprising in which hundreds of thousands of people, you know, flocked the streets, day and night, demanding independence. It was put down with military force.

And now, once again, you have a situation where you can hardly walk from, you know, twenty meters without someone with an AK-47 in your face. Sometimes in places like Srinagar, which is the capital, it’s well hidden. But it’s a place where every action, every breath that people, you know, breathe in and breathe out, is kind of controlled by military force. And this is how—you know, people are just being asphyxiated; they cannot breathe.

And, of course, there’s a huge publicity machine. You know, I mean, I’d say that the only difference between what’s happening in Palestine and Kashmir is that, so far, India has not used air power on the people of Kashmir, as they are threatening to do, by the way, in Chhattisgarh, you know, to its own poorest. It has not—you know, the people, technically, they are able to move around, unlike the people of Gaza and the West Bank. Kashmiris are able to move around in the rest of India, though it isn’t really safe, because their young get picked up and disappeared and tortured and so on. So, you know, it’s not something that they easily will do. And there has not been this kind of system of settlements, you know, where you’re trying to sort of take over by pushing in people from the mainland. So, other than those three, I think we’re talking about an outright occupation.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re speaking with the great writer Arundhati Roy, social justice activist. She’s speaking to us from New Delhi, India. When we come back, we’ll talk about India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the view of President Obama from India. This is Democracy Now! Stay with us.

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AMY GOODMAN: We continue with our exclusive global broadcast with Arundhati Roy in New Delhi, India, the world-renowned author, social justice activist. Her first book, The God of Small Things, translated all over the world, won the Booker Prize in 1997. Her new book, just out: Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers.

I’m Amy Goodman with Anjali Kamat. Anjali?

ANJALI KAMAT: Arundhati, years ago, under the Bush administration, you called yourself a “subject of empire.” Today, can you talk about what Obama’s America looks like from India, from New Delhi, as the Obama administration expands the war from Afghanistan into Pakistan?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, I think, you know, when people would ask me what I thought of Obama, I said I hope that he would land the American empire gently, like the pilot who landed the—who crash-landed the plane in the Hudson.

Yes, he’s expanding the war in Afghanistan. I think, basically, people, including Obama, just don’t know what to do in Afghanistan, and expanding the war is certainly not going to end that war or create any kind of just peace in that region. It’s, in fact, going to exacerbate the situation, draw Pakistan into it, and when Pakistan is drawn into it, so will India, and so on. So it goes.

I think, you know, the real change that has taken place in the last, you know, ten years is also the rise of India and China as kind of imperial powers, you know, playing out their games in Africa and also in parts of Latin America. So it’s a very—and, of course, the rise of Russia.

So, I think the situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir is very volatile. And, of course, let’s not forget that these are nuclear powers, even though a scientist recently has announced that India’s nuclear tests were a damp squib and that they were not successful, but I don’t know what that’s about and why he’s coming out with it now.

But I think we are headed for a lot of chaos. And in India, you know, as I said, while the situation in Kashmir—even now, as I speak in the studio, there’s news coming in of what they call “encounter killings,” you know, almost a few every day. So, obviously, given that nonviolent protest has been put down violently, things are going to go back to a previous era of some kind of militant violence there. And, you know, the heart of India being sort of hollowed out by this civil war and this assault on its poor.

I really don’t know what to say or what to expect, except to say that this kind of pressure can never result in an orderly submission, even if people wanted to submit. What’s going to happen and what is happening is that unpredictable kinds of battles and chaos is erupting all over the place, and, you know, the government is constantly firefighting and trying to douse those flames.

But out of this chaos, something new has to come, and will come, because it cannot go on like this. And I don’t know whether that thing will be worse or will be better, but it can’t go on like this. You know, the kind of polythene bag over our heads has to burst open at some point. You know, we have to be allowed to breathe. And this kind of surveillance and drone attacks and all this that’s being planned is not going to be able to hold down millions of people who are just getting impoverished and hungry and homeless.

ANJALI KAMAT: Arundhati, can you talk about the state of the media in India? You talk about the different institutions of democracy. How would you assess the Indian media, and what is its role in this landscape?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, if I had to talk about the—you know, I mean, the mainstream sort of corporate media, and if I were to have to make a kind of crude statement, I’d say that the mainstream media right now here is not a little to the right of Fox News. You know, that’s what’s going on here. There’s a kind of nationalist howl that I find pretty terrifying. Having said that, I think that, you know, now all we’re left with is to try and find some sane sort of bubbles within that. And there are those.

And, of course, the fact that India is a country where—I mean, forget the media; people don’t—you know, people don’t have access to water and food and basic healthcare. The kind of reach and that mesmeric spell that the media casts in, you know, developed countries, the media can’t in India. In fact, I was actually—you know, when I was in this place, Chhattisgarh, Dantewada, where the war is unfolding, a senior policeman told me, “You know, Arundhati, as a policeman, I can tell you that the police are not going to be able to solve the problem of these indigenous, you know, these Adivasi people”—“Adivasi” is the word for tribal people—“and I have told the government that the problem with these people is that they don’t have any greed. So, the way to solve the problem is to put a TV in every house. Then we’ll be able to win this war.”

So, you know, you have a situation where more and more people are just outside the barcode. You know, they are what you would call “illegible.” And we have a very, very serious situation here, where now they are planning, you know, once again, to make a—what do you call it—a electronic ID card. Of course, once again, to people who don’t have water, who don’t have electricity, who don’t have schools, but they will have ID cards, and people who don’t have ID cards are not going to exist.

But, sorry, I moved away from your question, which was a question about the media. I fear the media greatly here. You know, sometimes, like you see after the attacks in Mumbai, the government was more mature than the media. The media was spoiling for war. It was really—you know, the media and the elite and the urban middle class were spoiling for war. They were just pushing for a war with Pakistan. And so, I’d say highly irresponsible, with very little basis in fact. And a lot of my book is really a response to how the media has behaved over the last few years on very, very crucial issues. And it’s very troubling to live in a place where the media has actually no accountability.

ANJALI KAMAT: Arundhati, can you talk a little bit about encounter deaths? You mentioned this a little earlier in the program. What are police encounters, fake encounters? This is something that’s quite common in India. But can you explain to our audience what you mean by “encounter deaths”?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, what happens now is that, you know, one of the ways in which people—the police and the security establishment deals with, you know, dissent, resistance and terrorism, or what they call terrorism, is to just deliver summary justice: kill people and say, oh, they were killed in an encounter, in cross-firing, or so on, and so on. So, in places like Kashmir and in the northeast, in Manipur and Nagaland, it’s an old tradition. In places like Andhra Pradesh, they had, you know, many, many hundreds of encounter deaths.

And, in fact, recently, there was a photo essay of an encounter death in Manipur, where the, you know, security grid just—security forces just surrounded this young boy. And it was a photo essay, you know. He was unarmed. He was a former militant, I think, who had laid down his arms, and he was in the market. And you just saw a policeman pulling out his gun, shooting him, and then they said, oh, he was killed in crossfire, you know.

So, it’s a very—you have people—we have cops here who are given medals for being encounter specialists. You know, so the more people they’ve killed, the more medals they’ll get. And in places like Kashmir, they actually get promotions. So, in fact, it’s something to be proud of, an encounter killing, for, you know, both the army as well as the police and the counterinsurgency forces.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Arundhati Roy. She’s speaking to us from New Delhi, India. She has just published a new book called Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers. Arundhati, why “listening to grasshoppers”?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Oh, it was the name of a lecture that I did in Turkey last year on the anniversary after the death of Hrant Dink, the Armenian journalist who was shot outside his office for daring to talk about the Armenian genocide of 1915, which you’re not supposed to talk about in Turkey. And my lecture was really about the historical links between progress and genocide.

And “listening to grasshoppers” was—referred to the testimony an old lady called Araxie Barsamian, who’s the friend—mother of my friend David Barsamian, who is Armenian and who talked about how, you know, the wheat had ripened in her village in 1915, and suddenly there was this huge swarm of grasshoppers that arrived. And the village elders were very worried about this and said it was a bad omen. And they were right, because a few months later, when the wheat had ripened, the Turks came, and that was the beginning of the Armenian genocide for her.

And so, I talk about—the whole lecture was really about how societies are prepared for genocide and how genocide is, you know, it’s like part of free trade, and how, you know, genocides that are acknowledged, and denied, and prosecuted, all have to—all depend on world trade, and always have done, and about how I worry that a country like India, that is poised on the threshold of progress, could also be poised on the threshold of genocide.

And that essay was written in January of last year. And now, as you see, the troops are closing in on the forest areas where the poorest people live. And they will be sacrificed at the altar of progress, unless we manage to show the world that we have to find a different way of seeing and a different way of going about things.

But here in India, there’s the smell of fascism in the air. Earlier, it was a kind of an anti-Muslim, religious fascism. Now we have a secular government, and it’s a kind of right-wing ruthlessness, where people openly say, you know, every country that has progressed and is developed, whether you look at Europe or America or China or Russia, they have a quote-unquote “past,” you know, they have a cruel past, and it’s time that India stepped up to the plate and realized that there are some people that are holding back this kind of progress and that we need to be ruthless and move in, as Israel did recently in Gaza, as Sri Lanka has recently done with its hundreds of thousands of Tamils in concentration camps. So why not India? You know? Why not just do away with the poor so that we can be a proper superpower, instead of a super-poor superpower?

AMY GOODMAN: Arundhati Roy, we just have less than a minute. What gives you hope?

ARUNDHATI ROY: What gives me hope is the fact that this way of thinking is being resisted in a myriad ways in India, you know, from the poorest person in a loincloth in the forest saying, “We’re going to fight,” right up to me, who’s at the other end, you know. And all of us are joined together by the determination that, even if we lose, we’re going to fight, you know? And we’re not going to just let this happen without doing everything we can to stop it. And that gives me a tremendous amount of hope.

AMY GOODMAN: Arundhati Roy, we thank you very much for being with us from, well, not far from your home, in New Delhi, India, in this international global exclusive broadcast on the publication of your book, Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers, published by Haymarket Books.

 

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