Revolution in South Asia

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Archive for August 17th, 2008

Dave Pugh: Killings by Indian Gov’t Purification Hunters

Posted by Mike E on August 17, 2008

Woman mourning her husband in India's tribal belt

Dave has recently been released from police detention in India. Here are the first quick comments he has to share with Kasama starting from a discussion of a documentary video posted and discussed on this site.

I agree, this is a useful video, though it has a few shortcomings. The footage of a Maoist training camp is brief and plays into stereotypes, like the “Death to imperialism” chants. It is also not entirely clear from the video that the Salwa Judum (or “Purification Hunt”) was launched by the Government as a counter-insurgency campaign against the Maoists, much like Operation Phoenix and the strategic hamletting by the US against the National Liberation Front in south Vietnam 40 years ago.

On a recent fact-finding trip to India to learn about forced displacement, I learned that the Salwa Judum has targetted and burned down, sometimes more than once, nearly 700 villages in the southern part of the state of Chhattisgarh, the stronghold of the Maoists. At one point, the narrator claims that the Maoists have also attacked the villagers, but just the opposite is true. The Salwa Judum has targetted these villages because they support the Maoists (or Naxalites, named after a famous peasant uprising in Naxalbari in 1967). It is when politically backward villagers take up arms for the government that they become legitimate targets for the Maoist dalams (squads).

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Dave Pugh: Free From Detention in India, Companions in Danger

Posted by Mike E on August 17, 2008

It is with obvious relief that we can report that Dave Pugh has been released by the authorities in India and safely returned to his home. And it is with great concern and anger, that we have to report that his companions still face charges and great danger. We want to extend thanks to the many supporters and friends of Kasama who have responded to the call to help free these three. We look forward to posting Dave’s report from India and news of the situation of Pratima and Pradeep.

Statement by Dave Pugh on his Detention during his Fact-Finding Trip to India

by Dave Pugh August 16, 2008

Yesterday I returned to the U.S. after spending three and a half weeks gathering information about the anti-displacement movement in India. I traveled across five states in central and eastern India to the sites of projected industrial and mining projects and real estate developments. I spoke with hundreds of villagers who are threatened with displacement and with many dedicated activists who are helping to organize the people’s resistance.

On the evening of August 12, I was returning to the state capital of Orissa, Bhubaneswar, after spending a day in the area of Kalinganagar. This was the site of a massacre of 15 tribal farmers in January 2006 by Orissa police who were protecting the construction site of a large steel plant owned by the Tatas, one of the biggest industrial houses in India. Since then the farmers and their allies have stopped construction in its tracks, much to the consternation of Tata Steel and the Orissa government.

At approximately 8 pm, the car transporting us was pulled over by local police for a traffic-related reason. My translator Pratima Das, my guide Pradeep, our driver and I were taken to a police station for questioning. For the next eight hours, all of us were interrogated, first by the local police, and then by the chief police official of the state of Orissa. The latter was particularly hostile, accusing me of being an “anti-government agitator.” When I insisted that I was a teacher researching the issue of forced displacement in India, he insisted that only “communists” would be interested in speaking with villagers.

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